My Department is examining all appropriate measures to support the different agrifood sectors, including the suckler sector in preparation for the next iteration of the CAP. The measures adopted will be informed by stakeholder consultation on the needs of the sector to develop in an economically and environmentally sustainable way, as well as the relevant research and the available budget and structure of the new CAP when it is finalised.
I was pleased to secure in the Budget this week an allocation of €20 million in 2019 for a new pilot scheme for suckler farmers, specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production. The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) will target the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves - measuring the liveweight of the calf at weaning as a percentage of the cow's liveweight. This data will be used to target improvements on a herd basis by giving the farmer detailed feedback on the performance of individual animals. The data collected will also be a valuable addition to Ireland's already impressive database on cattle genomics. Details of the scheme will be announced in due course.
The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is currently the main support specifically targeted for the suckler sector, which provides Irish beef farmers with some €300 million in funding over the current Rural Development Programme (RDP) period. This scheme is an agri-environmental measure to improve the environmental sustainability of the national suckler herd by increasing genetic merit within the herd.
My Department has rolled out a range of schemes as part of the €4 billion Rural Development Programme (RDP), 2014 - 2020. In addition to the BDGP, other supports which are available for suckler and sheep farmers under Pillar II of the CAP include GLAS, ANCs and Knowledge Transfer Groups. Suckler farmers also benefit from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Greening payments under CAP Pillar I.
I am conscious that this has been a difficult year for the sector in terms of weather and the range of challenges associated with it. At the recent meeting of the Beef Roundtable on 3 October, I highlighted the need for stakeholders to recognise their inter-dependency. I urged processors to engage positively with their farmer suppliers to build the sustainability of the sector as a whole and to ensure a reasonable return for the farmers upon whom the sector relies for its development. It is essential that the position of the primary producer in the supply chain be secured if we are to build a sector for the future.
The Beef Roundtable also included discussions on the potential for producer organisations and the development of new technologies as ways of adding value along the whole supply chain, all tools to build resilience in the sector. Producer Organisations would allow farmers to engage collectively with processors, with the aim of strengthening farmers' bargaining power. Additionally, I have asked Bord Bia to conduct a detailed examination of market dynamics, with the cooperation of the industry, taking into account sales of particular cuts into particular segments of the market in order to improve price transparency.
One of the unique strengths the agri-food sector has is our shared vision for the sustainable development of the sector in Food Wise 2025. I hope that this positive engagement will continue.
I am strongly of the view that this new provision announced in this week's Budget and the existing range of supports available to suckler farmers, together with ensuring access to as many markets as possible, both for live animals and beef exports, are appropriate supports for the continued development of the sector. According to National Farm Survey already suckler farmers receive support equivalent to approximately €500 per suckler cow on average.
I will continue to argue for as strong a CAP budget as possible, post-2020. In particular, I am committed to ensuring that suckler farmers continue to receive strong support in the next CAP. My view is that such payments should support and encourage suckler farmers to make the best decisions possible to improve the profitability, and the economic and environmental efficiency, of their farming system. The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot is a positive step in that direction.