Agriculture: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Charlie McConalogue on Wednesday, 18 September 2019:
That Dáil Éireann:
notes:
— that beef and suckler farmers are at their wits’ end, experiencing a severe income crisis, under significant financial stress, and struggling to maintain their livelihoods;
— how utter despair has forced individual farmers to resume protest at factories;
— the determined action by beef farmers in support of the Beef Plan Movement protests over a number of weeks which forced processors to the negotiating table last month;
— how beef prices have slumped downward even further to €3.45 - €3.55 per kilogram, significantly below the cost of production;
— the thousands of staff that have been laid off from meat processing plants;
— farmers’ dependency on direct payments under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for their livelihoods, with average suckler incomes in the region of €8,000 according to Teagasc;
— the low farmer uptake in the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) scheme;
— how half of all Irish beef exports go to the United Kingdom (UK) market, and that a no-deal Brexit represents an existential threat to the viability of beef farming with fully tariffed trade adding up to €800 million in costs, while prices would fall to €2.50 per kilogram;
— that the Government has failed to adequately promote and incentivise the uptake of Producer Organisations (POs) in the beef sector with just one registration greenlighted to date, despite a legal basis for POs established in 2016;
— the Taoiseach’s comments regarding meat consumption have infuriated suckler farmers and undermined State policy to promote Irish beef product in overseas markets;
— the Government did not build sufficient support with European counterparts at European Union (EU) level to prevent increased access of 99,000 tonnes of beef from Mercosur countries in the draft trade agreement; and
— the severe financial difficulties being experienced by knackeries, and the onerous provisions under the fallen animal scheme; and
calls on the Government to:
— ensure meat processors return to talks and remove legal threats, while retailers must also attend stakeholder discussions;
— resolve the outstanding issues (fair prices, 30 month age restriction, four movement rule and 70 days residency requirement) with meat processors, retailers and farming organisations;
— work with the European Commission to immediately deliver an emergency crisis fund for beef farmers by using CAP market disturbance aid for price losses suffered since May, and to mitigate a doomsday no-deal Brexit for the sector;
— avail of all avenues to increase live export trade, and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Bord Bia must actively seek out new live export markets for cattle, which acts as a key safety value for the sector;
— ensure complete transparency with respect to market prices in the supply chain and establish a commission of investigation into the beef sector to examine retailer and processor margins;
— introduce a beef market index and require processors to publish weekly price reports;
— immediately commence the process of working towards the introduction of a €200 suckler cow payment;
— strengthen the position of the primary producer in the food supply chain and transpose the EU Directive on Unfair Trading Practices into Irish law swiftly, which should be enforced by an independent national food ombudsman;
— ensure all 2019 CAP payments issue swiftly, including:
— Basic Payment Scheme;
— Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS);
— Areas of Natural Constraint payment (ANC);
— Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS);
— Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP);
— Sheep Welfare System;
— Knowledge Transfer Programme; and
— Hen Harrier Programme;
— extend the deadline for applications to the BEAM scheme, while making immediate changes to the conditions attached to the scheme, which are overly restrictive and preventing farmers from applying;
— give adequate financial support to establish POs in the beef sector;
— reject any final Mercosur deal, which would undermine EU climate change policy, increase the deforestation of the Amazon and depress prices in Europe;
— examine introducing a farmer’s charter, which processors and retailers would have to obey if they wish to avail of Bord Bia’s Quality Assurance logo;
— commission a full review of the Quality Pricing System (QPS) grid, while working with stakeholders to ensure all animals which come from a quality assured farm receive some level of bonus payment;
— market Irish grass-fed beef as a premium brand to extract an increased return to farmers, while secure Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for our suckler beef at EU level in order to increase its promotional value; and
— provide additional funding to ensure the viability of the knackery industry, while reviewing the fallen animal scheme.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 2:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann:” and substitute the following:
“notes:
— that the beef sector has experienced a sustained period of depressed prices and farmers are experiencing very challenging conditions, and prices are now 9 per cent below the same period last year, and have been consistently depressed since autumn
2018, for a variety of reasons, including sterling weakness and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, with the United Kingdom accounting for 50 per cent of Irish beef exports;
— that the overwhelming consensus among farm representatives and other stakeholders is that the current impasse in the sector needs to be resolved to permit farmers with finished stock to have them processed, to protect blue chip markets, especially in advance of Brexit, and to avoid any long-term damage to the sector;
— that with that in mind, an agreement was reached between the processing sector and seven farming organisations/representatives in recent days to resolve the current difficulties;
— that this agreement includes a range of immediate benefits for farmers in terms of bonus payments and also includes a commitment to develop a beef market price index model and a review of the Quality Pricing System (QPS) grid;
— the importance of upholding this agreement in the broader interests of the beef sector as a whole, from the perspective of suppliers, processors and those employed by the processing sector;
— that up to 10,000 jobs in the processing sector are threatened by the continuation of the dispute and the livelihoods of 80,000 farm families are at stake; and
— while the Government cannot legally intervene on setting beef prices in the sector, every effort is being made to bring about a resolution to the current situation and to fully support the future development of the beef sector;
further notes that:
— the Government has negotiated a €100 million Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM), co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the Exchequer, in recognition of market difficulties in the beef sector;
— the BEAM deadline is currently open for applications and has been extended for another week for new applications, to be facilitated at the Ploughing Championships this week;
— this funding is in addition to a new €20 million Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot, launched in January 2019;
— the first ever legal framework for setting up producer organisations was introduced by Government and extensively promoted, and this has led to the approval of the first beef Producer Organisation last week, which will provide farmers with a legal basis for negotiating a better deal in the marketplace; and
— the Government has actively advocated to safeguard the Irish beef sector in the context of the Mercosur Agreement and will continue to do so as the Agreement is further deliberated at an EU level; and
recognises that:
— a Beef Market Taskforce is being established to develop a sustainable pathway for the future of the beef sector and to provide a platform for engagement with retailers and other key stakeholders in the sector;
— this Taskforce will provide for a robust implementation structure for the commitments entered into in the Beef Sector Agreement of 15th September;
— an independent examination on price composition on the supply chain in the sector is being undertaken;
— an analysis of competition issues is being drawn up;
— there continues to be active engagement on the development of Protected Geographical Indication for Irish beef and on promotional activity for Irish beef in key target markets;
— a public consultation process on the transposition of the Unfair Trading Practices Directive and the establishment of a regulator for the sector will shortly commence; and
— Area of Natural Constraint scheme payments are being commenced this week and all other payments are being made without delay in order to support farmers in difficult economic circumstances.
-(Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

I must now deal with a postponed division relating to the Fianna Fáil motion on agriculture. On Tuesday, 18 September, on the question, "That the amendment to the motion be agreed to," a division was claimed. In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), that division must be taken now.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 38; Níl, 84; Staon, 0.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanton, David.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, James.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Curran, John.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Michael Moynihan and John Lahart.
Amendment declared lost.

Given that amendment No. 2 has been lost, we must now consider amendment No.1 in the name of Sinn Féin.

I move amendment No. 1:

(a) To delete the words “introduce a beef market index and require processors to publish weekly price reports;” and substitute the following:

“— establish a beef market observatory to require processors to publish daily price reports to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine regarding:

— the prices for cattle (euros per kilogram) established on that day, categorised by:

— type of purchase;

— the quantity of cattle purchased;

— a range of the estimated live weights of the cattle purchased;

— an estimate of the percentage of the cattle purchased that were of a quality grade of choice or better; and

— any premiums or discounts associated with:

— weight, grade or yield; or

— any type of purchase; and the quantity of cattle delivered to the processor (quoted in numbers of herd) on that day, categorised by:

— type of purchase;

— the quantity of cattle delivered on a live weight basis; and

— the quantity of cattle delivered on a dressed weight basis; and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine shall make the information available to the public every reporting day;”;

(b) To insert the following after “Hen Harrier Programme;”:

“— adequately uphold the Farmers Charter of Rights;”; and

(c) To insert the following after “while reviewing the fallen animal scheme.”:

“— carry out a study on how the family farming model can be preserved in the face of the increasing prevalence of feedlots.”

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

To insert the following after “provide additional funding to ensure the viability of the knackery industry, while reviewing the fallen animal scheme.”:

“further notes that:

— the fact that the further the beef animal goes from the farm gate, the less information is made available on price; and in light of the distinct lack of information on margins in the processing sector or the farmers’ share of the carcass price received on EU markets by processors, including the volumes and value of specific cuts, there is now an urgent need for measures to be taken to provide beef price transparency right across the supply chain; and

further calls on the Government to:

— intensify efforts to secure EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for certified grass-fed, extensively reared Irish Suckler Beef and in tandem with PGI status to develop a new marketing brand, along the lines of the Kerrygold brand, to sell this unique product into premium markets;

— implement the recommendation to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission of 28th May last, that a dedicated sectoral regulator be established as a matter of urgency

to enforce the EU Directive on Unfair Trading Practices in the agricultural and food supply chain, and to deliver ongoing regulatory interventions to improve the welfare of farmers;

— as an interim measure, ensure that the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation shall, under section 10(4) of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014, request the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to carry out a market study and analysis on the nature and scale of consumer and beef farmer issues in the beef market and make recommendations, as appropriate; and

— ensure that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine immediately convenes a cross-sector implementation group to establish a publicly owned and controlled national beef supply blockchain, which has the potential to transform the beef supply chain by reducing production costs, emissions and allowing the farmer to receive a premium return for beef while providing consumers with greater confidence in the beef they consume.”

Amendment agreed to.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.