My Department has consistently provided significant support for the suckler sector and will continue to do so, in preparation for the next iteration of the CAP.
Earlier this year I was pleased to secure an allocation of €20 million in the 2019 Budget 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 shortly.
I am also confident that suckler farmers will be significant beneficiaries of the additional €23 million in funding announced for the Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme.
The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) provides Irish beef farmers with some €300 million in funding over the current Rural Development Programme (RDP) period. This will improve the environmental sustainability of the national suckler herd by increasing genetic merit.
In addition to the BDGP, other supports which are available for beef 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. My department has made up to €7m available to assist farmers with fodder shortages. At the last 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.