Fianna Fáil TD for Offaly Barry Cowen has called on the Government to make major changes to the Beef Genomics Programme in order to make it fit for purpose.

Deputy Cowen raised the matter with Tánaiste Joan Burton in the Dáil on Thursday during Leader’s Questions. During the exchange he urged the Tánaiste to sit up and listen to the serious concerns that the farming community have over the structure of the scheme.

“Farmers across Ireland have been left dismayed by the Government’s haphazard approach to the roll out of the new Beef Genomics Scheme. The scheme is over complicated and will impose excessive costs on those that sign up. The draconian conditions attached to it are also turning away potential applicants.

“The rule that will bar new applicants to the scheme following the close of applications is absurd. It means that no one will be able to sign up to the scheme, even if desirable changes are made. The Government has also inserted a rule which provides that all payments made over the lifetime of the programme will be clawed back should a farmer withdraw from the scheme. This leaves a threat hanging over farmers who may be forced to withdraw from the scheme early due to personal circumstances.

“It’s also bizzare that the Government has decided to only allow farmers to make an application to the scheme based on the size of their suckler cow herd in 2014 rather than 2015. This places yet another unnecessary limit on those who want to expand their herd size into the future.

“Unfortunately the Government has been unwilling to take on board the concerns that farmers have. I raised the matter on the floor of the Dáil with the Tánaiste this week and the response I got was nothing short of pitiful. I highlighted what action needs to be taken to make the scheme fit for purpose but the Tánaiste was unwilling to make any meaningful commitments.

“The Government needs to show some flexibility by implementing a rolling reference year, a mid-term review and a reduction in genomics testing to make this scheme workable. The current costs and conditions associated with the scheme is doing far more harm than good” said Deputy Cowen.