Fianna Fáil Agriculture and Food Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue TD says he is concerned at the participation rate in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), introduced under the Fine Gael Government back in 2015.

Deputy McConalogue said, “The latest parliamentary reply that I have received shows that there are 23,709 farmers enrolled in the BDGP I, while only 1,900 applied to BDGP II, giving a total of 25,609 farmers.

“The Government set itself a target of 35,000 participating in the scheme when it was originally launched. The fact that there are nearly 10,000 fewer farmers participating in the scheme (-27%) is deeply concerning.

“This clearly illustrates how farmers aren’t buying into the scheme due to the highly complex and heavily bureaucratic burden involved. This is evidenced by the fact that 5,230 farmers have withdrawn from the scheme to date.

“In contrast, when Fianna Fáil was in Government, participation rates for the suckler cow scheme exceeded 40,000 farmers.

“Furthermore, €21m remains unspent under allocated funding for BDGP in 2015 and 2016. It is an imperative that the Minister ensures that this underspend does not result in suckler farmers losing out on these vital funds. The full allocation under the scheme must be used within the current RDP window to 2020.

“Suckler farmers continue to depend exclusively on direct payments for their livelihoods with the average annual income under €13,000 according to Teagasc. A €200 suckler cow payment remains a key policy for Fianna Fáil and we will continue to campaign for this to be achieved.”