I can confirm that an informal discussion occurred on the date indicated, between myself and the IFA President, in which various issues relating to the Beef sector, including market conditions, were raised.
As the Deputy will be aware, as Minister for Agriculture, I have no role in determining prices for any commodity nor can I intervene in the same.
The Beef Sector is an important element of the Irish economy and I am conscious of the importance that this key sector plays in rural Ireland.
I am keenly aware that the past few months have been very challenging for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There was a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices lasting from autumn 2018 to spring 2019, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.
The recent announcement by Commissioner Hogan of EU exceptional aid for the Irish beef sector is very welcome in this context. I have been making the case for some time for an exceptional aid package from the EU Commission for Irish beef farmers, at EU Council of Agriculture Minister meetings and in direct consultation with the Commission.
Further details on the aid package will be announced in due course following the appropriate stakeholder consultation.
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 RDP period. Building on this is the exchequer funded Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), a €20 million pilot project for 2019.
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 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.
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, and through the next Agri Food strategy to 2030. My view is that such measures 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.