Beef farmers meet to select representatives for possible new talks

Independent Farmers of Ireland invites protesters to organise as pickets continue

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said it would be in everyone’s interest if a more unified approach was  taken by farmers. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said it would be in everyone’s interest if a more unified approach was taken by farmers. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

 

Beef farmers met on Monday night to select representatives to voice their concerns at any future talks aimed at resolving the crisis which has engulfed the sector.

Calling themselves Independent Farmers of Ireland, the group invited three delegates from groups protesting at processing plants around the State to a meeting with a view to electing three national representatives.

“These representatives will be able to sit at the negotiating table with the full backing of all protestors and facilitate any proposal that is reached,” a statement said.

“Going forward, we will have three available at all times to attempt to bring this stalemate to an end and achieve the original goal of this protest - the survival of the sustainable Irish family farm.”

The move chimed with a call made by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed who had urged farmers picketing meat plants over beef prices to engage with farmer organisations to allow them to speak with one voice.

Mr Creed said it appeared that many protests, including a new picket which began on a meat plant in Monaghan on Monday night, were organised on a local basis and it would be in everyone’s interest if a more unified approach was taken by farmers.

Asked if farmer organisations could do more to try and bring individual protesters back into the fold, Mr Creed said he believed that everyone, including the farm organisations, was doing their best to try and achieve a resolution.

He said the fact that farmers were engaging in local protests made it difficult to engage in talks in contrast to last month when he was able to approach the organising body, Beef Plan, to persuade them to suspend protests in return for a halt to legal action by beef processors.

Mr Creed noted a team of Chinese auditors was currently in Ireland assessing the suitability of 12 meat processing plants and while they had already carried out assessments, more remain to be examined and it was important not to hinder or affect that process.

“When all of that is said and done and this issue is resolved - we will be looking for new markets for beef and China is a very significant market with some 1.4 billion people so it offers huge potential for Irish beef producers,” said Mr Creed.

Meanwhile IFA presidential hopeful Tim Cullinan said responsibility for the protests at factory gates rested squarely on the shoulders of beef processors and the Minister for Agriculture.

“Scenes today, with farmers being arrested, are categoric proof of Minister Michael Creed’s abject failure to address the beef crisis,” he said.

Accusing Mr Creed of “total dereliction of his duties”, Mr Cullinan said a crisis for beef producers “has long been brewing and the Minister’s denial and hands-off approach has led to the breakdown we are now witnessing”.