Fianna Fáil Agriculture and Food Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue TD said his party is prioritising the suckler sector and over 75,000 farm families nationwide with a Dáil motion this coming Wednesday under private members time.

Deputy McConalogue said, “The almost one million suckler cow herd is pivotal to supporting the local economy in rural Ireland with every €1 of support provided to suckler farmers generating over €4 of economic activity in rural parishes.

“While suckler farmers underpin our €2.5 billion beef exports, they generate average incomes below €13,000 each year and are fully dependent on CAP supports to maintain their livelihoods.

“The suckler sector is facing threats on many fronts with successive Fine Gael led Governments found wanting.

“The Government has refused at every avenue to look at all options to introduce a €200 payment per suckler cow. Fianna Fáil has championed this as a key policy and will continue to campaign for its delivery.

Suckler farmers are being let down with the Government accepting at least 70,000 extra tonnes of South American Mercosur beef into the EU. The timing of this couldn’t be any worse for farmers with Brexit having the potential to place tariffs on half of all our beef exports.

“Meanwhile, the beef forum has failed farmers and has become a talking shop with commitments originally made being reneged on.

“In our motion, we also instruct the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to review the current underspend accruing across several Rural Development Programme (RDP) schemes and report back within two months to the Oireachtas on a roadmap towards targeting RDP underspend to suckler and other vulnerable sectors.

“The underspend in the Department of Agriculture soared to €186 million over the last two years, while several 2014-2020 RDP schemes are on course to underspend significantly, such as GLAS and TAMS.

“Given the existential threats of Brexit and any Mercosur deal on suckler farmers’ incomes, the Government must immediately seek EU recognition of these and request funding supports including CAP market disturbance funds.

“Fianna Fáil is asking for cross party support for this motion to send a strong message from Dáil Éireann to the Government that these farmers need to be supported,” concluded Deputy McConalogue.