It’s been a grueling eight months for the Beef Plan Movement since the establishment of its official national committee on a cold winter’s night in Tullamore, last November.
At that time, the group – then representing 3,000 members – voted to appoint a number of key representatives including: a chairperson (Eamon Corley); a vice chairperson (Hugh Doyle); a secretary (Declan Molloy); and a treasurer (Moira Doyle).
With a team in place, an expansive recruitment process got underway over the subsequent months to inform the country’s beef farmers of Beef Plan 2018-2025 – a road map for the sector aimed at “saving and rejuvenating beef farming in Ireland before it’s too late”.
They held public meetings at dozens of marts and hotels telling of their objectives to “regain control” of an animal from “birth to slaughter and beyond”; of returning a “cost-of-production price, plus a margin” for the primary producer; and of “regaining respect” for the beef farmer within the industry.
In line with this, membership mushroomed to its current status of a little over 20,000.
Although operating in a space already populated by a number of long-established, high-standing farm lobby organisations, the Beef Plan Movement has driven its agenda onto factory floors, supermarket aisles, the corridors of Leinster House and into the public’s consciousness through a series of provocative protests.
The sector at large is now well aware of the Beef Plan Movement – but where can the group go from here?
Sitting down with AgriLand at his suckler and sheep holding in Summerhill, Co. Meath, Hugh Doyle reflected on the group’s development to date, the challenges it has faced – and the rocky road that remains ahead.
He also outlined his new role as co-chairman of the body – alongside Eamon Corley.
“We have zero regrets to this stage and we are determined to follow this the whole way through.
“The more I learn about this industry, the more I realise that where it is at the moment has happened over the last 10 years.
“We have to change Government policy. What we are demanding is that Government legislation is brought in – be it on an EU level or on a national level – to investigate the retailers and get a proper report on their true margin on the retail price and the same with the processors.
“The processors, Meat Industry Ireland [MII], will throw out statistics stating that their net margin is in the region of 1% – which is beyond laughable.