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'The majority of farmers have to find other jobs to supplement their income. It's come to a head'

Multiple protests have popped up across the country.

Protestors in Clonee today.
Protestors in Clonee today.
Image: Garreth MacNamee

BEEF FARMERS ACROSS the country have been protesting for the last two weeks in a bid to highlight their serious concerns about the industry. 

The Beef Plan Movement is an independent group set up by farmers who feel they are not getting value for money for their cattle. 

Multiple protests have popped up in 22 sites across the country and today TheJournal.ie visited the picket line outside the Kepak meat processing facility in Clonee, Meath, where we spoke to protestors about their concerns. 

Although a relatively small number of people were at the event, their message was the same as those protesting in Cavan, Kilkenny and elsewhere: they want to be able to afford to live which, at the moment, they say is not possible. 

Richard Flynn is one of the many who have been protesting the last two weeks. He said that the reality for beef farmers in Ireland today is that the workers can’t afford to live on the salaries that farming alone gives them. Most people Flynn knows work extra jobs to supplement their income, he said, adding that he hopes the industry is not past the point of no return. 

“We are protesting the price of beef and the industry as a whole in the way it is conducting itself with beef farmers. The Beef Plan has been building over the last 18 months bringing in farmers who don’t feel they have a voice in dealing with processors in getting a fair process.”

Flynn described how they are getting a lot more support in recent days and that the message is slowly starting to filter out about their cause. However, he stressed that the movement is trying to keep disruption to the public at a minimum. 

“We’re getting a lot more support now – people are starting to back what we’re at. We don’t want to cause any disruption but we also have to get our voices heard. The crippling of the beef prices to the livelihoods of farmers is what we class as rural Ireland being dismantled.”

Of the many problems the collective has, the major one is the distribution of money between farmers, processors and retailers. 

The group gave an example of someone buying €10 worth of beef from their local supermarket. The collective claim that the retailer gets €5.10 for three days of work, the processor get €2.90 for three days of work and the farmer gets €2 for two years’ worth of work. 

Flynn said that livelihoods are at stake if the current trend continues. He said he “thought hard” before joining the group. 

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IMG_1847 Richard Flynn. Source: Garreth MacNamee

“I’ve been here since 11 last night. It’s important. I’ve children at home. We’ve been suffering the last 10 years. I talked to my wife about whether to get out of beef altogether but I made the decision to back the plan because it’s the last chace we have to try to lobby for better prices.

The majority of farmers have to find other jobs off the farm to supplement their income. Farms 20 years ago would have supported a family with the wife being able to stay at home and work on the farm. Now the wives are out working and the men are out working elsewhere trying to keep the farm going. It’s come to a head. Something needs to change.

In a statement this morning, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said he has reached out to the members of the Beef Plan in a bid to come to an agreement. 

Creed said that his office tried to “reach out” to the Beef Plan Movement, one of the protest groups, to enter talks and temporarily suspend their protests. 

“A round table discussion regarding the current market difficulties” has been offered to the Beef Plan movement,” it said. 

“In light of the announcement of layoffs in the meat processing sector, the difficult income situation facing farmers with livestock for slaughter and on animal welfare grounds, the Minister is again calling on the Beef Plan Movement to reflect on its position and to take up the invitation to enter into talks,” the statement said.

The Irish Farmers Journal today reported that hundreds of staff at Dawn Meats, APB and Kepak – which have factories across the country – are to be laid off as a result of the protests, which have spread to 22 factories nationwide. 

Climate Change

A report published today by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that humans must manage land better in order to avoid food insecurity and the worst impacts of climate change into the future as well address personal dietary choices.  

One recommendation from the IPCC is for humans to move towards more balanced diets of plant-based foods such as grains and nuts, something supported by the Green Party.

This afternoon the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) released a statement rejecting the Green Party calls for less of Ireland’s sustainable dairy and beef produce, as a solution to the climate challenge.

Thomas Cooney, the IFA’s environment chairman, said: “The Green Party’s continuous attack on our national herd lacks climate credibility. Farmers in Ireland have a proud climate record, with the European Union’s Joint Research Centre confirming that our dairy farmers are number one and our beef farmers are in the top five when it comes to climate friendly food production.

The Green Party’s agriculture spokesperson Pippa Hackett said: “One would have to wonder just which farmers the IFA are representing? The Green Party have consistently considered the viability of the small farm family first and foremost, and the future of such farms will depend more now than ever on environmental measures and outcomes, and diversity is the key to this.

“Yet the IFA continue to repeat the rhetoric of “feeding the world” to defend a commodity based model of dairy and beef production, which is increasing Ireland’s emissions and setting us up for billion euro costs in the next decade. To continue to pitch our small family farmers against global giants of beef and milk production is reckless to say the least.”

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