Fianna Fáil TD for Carlow – Kilkenny Bobby Aylward has welcomed clarification from Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine Simon Coveney on the 4/5 Star rating system as positive news for concerned farmers.

Deputy Aylward commented, “I have obtained confirmation from Minister Simon Coveney that bulls or heifers rated as 4 or 5 stars at either time of genotyping for animals sourced within the herd , or at the time of purchase for animals sourced outside the herd, will remain in compliance with the replacement strategy of the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme even in situations where the animal may be subsequently downgraded.

“This confirmation from the Minister via a Parliamentary Question follows assurances given by Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Agriculture, Mr Brendan Gleeson at the Oireachtas Agricultural Committee on Tuesday 16th June last. The move will alleviate some of the concern amongst farmers in relation to this aspect of the scheme.

“I also welcome confirmation by the Minister that should any surplus in funding arise then he will examine the potential to re-open the scheme in 2016 for new applicants. Assurances have also been made that there are enough 4/5 star bulls in existing scheme herds to ensure that there is no inbreeding as a result of the stock bull replacement requirement.

“However despite these assurances, there is still a lot of work to be done by the Minister in order to amend the regulations of this scheme to allow farmers the flexibility they need. The fact that farmers are liable for claw back penalty payments for breach of aspects of the scheme’s is a major issue and must be addressed.

“The jury is still out on the Minister’s assurances that the programme’s systems of assessment have the capability to provide an efficient and effective service under the impending pressure of catering for 25,000 to 30,000 farmers given that many farmers reported waiting times of up to six months for results in 2014.