Farmers welcome talks after tense protest standoff with factories

Beef Plan Movement protests yields talks with meat industry after nearly a fortnight of protests at factory gates over practices 'imposed on farmers'

Express Reporter

Reporter:

Express Reporter

Email:

news@leinsterexpress.ie

Farmers welcome talks after tense protest standoff with factories

The protest at Meadow Meats in Rathdowney

Negotiations got underway on Monday between representatives of the Beef Plan movement and Meat Industry Ireland, following the cessation of the Beef Plan Movement protest last Friday.

The talks were convened at the Department of Agriculture offices at Backweston in Kildare and included representatives from the farm organisations.

Speaking to the Leinster Express, David Whelan of the local beef plan movement said that they were very positive going into the negotiations.

“We feel very positive about it, after the success of the protests,” he said.

“There is real pressure on to try and achieve some solution here, and a consensus that something needs to be done.

“There is an acknowledgment amongst all the stakeholders that this needs to be addressed. It's a huge day for all involved.

“For many of us this is the final hurdle. We are trying to save this industry.”

Asked how long he felt the talks could go on for, Mr Whelan pointed out that there were many issues to get through.

“It will take whatever time is needed,” he stated.

Monday's talks were brokered by the Minister for Agriculture Food & the Marine, Michael Creed who confirmed over the weekend that the Beef Plan Movement and Meat Industry Ireland (MII) had accepted his compromise proposals aimed at breaking the impasse between the two parties.

The intervention came amidst escalating tensions in the standoff late last week, in which Meat Industry Ireland threatened legal action to stop the protests mounted at many factory gates and there were widespread reports about lay offs in meat factories.

The Laois County Chairperson and South Eastern regional chairman of the Beef Plan Movement, Enda Fingleton told the Leinster Express that staff lay offs were not what the protests wanted.

“We find ourselves in an awful situation.

“We are trying to address getting a fairer market for ourselves, to get rid of these restrictions and anti-competitive practices.”

Mr Fingleton said that no farmers had presented at Meadow Meats trying to get their stock into the factory.

The protest at Meadow Meats had commenced on Monday, July 29.

Following the ratcheting up of tensions last week and the Minister's intervention the protests and threatened legal proceedings brought by MII were consequently suspended with immediate effect until the agreed talks have concluded.

Enda Fingleton said that Monday's “talks are not about price they are about anticompetitive practices and unfair requirements imposed on farmers.”

Mr Fingleton highlighted a number of issues including the use of upper age limits to influence the price of heifers, steers and bulls; the upper limit of herd to herd movements.

Beef Plan sought a number of policy changes going into the meeting including:

- Review of 30 month age limit for Steers and Heifers as a QPS base price threshold age.

- Review of 16 month age limit for young bulls as a QPS base price threshold age.

- Removal of the number of herd to herd movements as a way to differentiate between the price paid for one animal over another.

- Review of non transferable Bord Bia QA status between farms.

- Published upper carcass weight thresholds with documented change notice periods.

- Animals weighed live immediately prior to slaughter and weights made available to the farmer.

- Mechanical grading machine images made available to the farmer on request.

- The introduction of independent manual grade appeals process.

- Review of fixed price differentiation between grades.

- Introduction of binding quote sheets that detail at a minimum number of animals, animal type, base price per Kg and agreed slaughter date.

- Factory Agents must only be allowed to work for one processor organisation.

- Insurance costs are to be incorporated into the price quoted per Kg in a similar manner to the way the 5th quarter is.

- Mandatory tagging requirement to be extended to imported live animals for the same reasons Irish sheet are tagged.