Michael Creed: Farming sector best served by a coherent, cohesive approach - not blockades

Michael Creed: Farming sector best served by a coherent, cohesive approach - not blockades
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has described some of the beef industry lobbying groups as ‘flying columns.’

“Holding one or two meetings at a central location nationally, does not a national organisation constitute. We have established farm bodies, we have relatively new established farm bodies, as well, but we also have these 'flying columns' so to speak ,” he told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show.

The Minister acknowledged the difficulties in 2019 for the beef sector.

“That's undoubtedly the case, if you look at figures published yesterday by Bord Bia, the out turn for 2019, the prospects for 2020, it does acknowledge that was a particularly difficult year.

“However, I would say that we're at a really critical juncture in the context of the agricultural sector looking to win friends and influence people, the agricultural lobby has been widely recognised over many years as being a predominant lobbying group and an effective one.

The real danger is with fracturing of that strength in terms of its lobbying capacity, the advent of the ‘pop up’ farmer organisation, which was the hallmark of 2019, a series of strikes by independent, previously unheard of organisations.

“We had a situation, for example, in the beef protests in late 2019 where we've had three iterations of a single organisation claiming to be a legitimate national organisation.

"I would make the point that bringing that kind of response and tactic to the centre of Dublin and blocking up the business of the city does not help us in the context of bigger issues that we need to deal with in terms of climate, in terms of a whole host of issues out there, the CAP reform, a host of issues that need addressing, securing additional resources.

I would strongly hold the view that the lobbying capacity and the dividend from that for the farming sector is best served by a coherent, cohesive approach rather than what we saw in the back end of 2019.

The Minister rejected an analogy between minimum pricing for alcohol and the price of beef.

“There is a market reality, and the market reality determines the price, what I do and what my role as I see it is, where the market is in difficulty in returning a fair income to farmers, then the State steps in a supports them with income support, it's not a price support, and that's what we did in 2019 in terms of making available an additional €120m.

“I've always said we need to have maximum transparency, we need to have the maximum level of engagement with retailers, with processors, and farmers and perhaps take a leaf out of the play book of the dairy industry who have a very sophisticated level of engagement with their suppliers, this industry will not survive except the modus operandi for engagement between the various players improves significantly.

I have regular engagement with established farm organisations on a continuous basis, that is the way that we should proceed and that's the way that farmers and their lobby groups have delivered over many years.

Mr Creed agreed there needs to be transparency about the breakdown of who gets what for a kilo of beef.

“Commercial sensitivities are one thing, but having a sustainable engagement with your primary producer is critical - the transposition of that directive is part of that.”

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