It is easy to empathise with beef producers who have not had a meaningful increase in income in many years. One of the arguments advanced in the current campaign is that farmers get more or less the same for their beef animals today that they got two decades ago. This is unsustainable and unless primary producers get a bigger slice of the cake then the future of Irish beef production must come into question.
Beef farmers may imagine themselves unique but they are not — many workers struggle to build pay levels back to where they were before the crash of 2008. Farmers are unique though in that they have a Government minister to argue their case and can secure regular lifeline funds — the most recent was €100m to the sector. No other group can expect such regular largesse. Farmers may imagine that kind of taxpayer support can be relied on permanently. That seems optimistic for many reasons. Suggesting that is not anti-farmer — as it would undoubtedly be depicted — but just a recognition of how our world is changing.
Beef protestors yesterday blocked a Chinese trade mission at a meat plant in Roscommon. The visit, years in the making, might have endorsed the plant as a source of beef for China. Whether that might now happen is an open question. A huge opportunity has been jeopardised and chance to create jobs put in question. By this kind of intervention farmers weaken their hand and risk losing the support their campaign enjoys.