ICSA statement on the death of Minister of State Shane McEntee TD

21st December, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president Gabriel Gilmartin has expressed shock at the untimely death of Minister of State Shane McEntee TD.
Mr Gilmartin said, “Shane McEntee had an acute understanding of the farming sector and worked hard during his tenure as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

ICSA welcomes revised TB scheme changes as a “victory for common sense”

18th December, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has welcomed the decision of the Department of Agriculture to pull back from implementing controversial cost-saving measures to the TB eradication scheme.  Changes to the scheme were announced today by the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney TD.  

ICSA Rural Development chairman John Barron said, “ICSA had serious concerns about an early proposal to abolish independent valuations of infected cattle in cases where there is only one reactor in the herd.  Independent valuation of all reactors is a core principle of the TB eradication scheme which farmers fought hard to secure.  ICSA mounted very robust opposition to this proposal and I would regard it as a victory for common sense that our position was vindicated and it was dropped from the scheme.”

“We also argued strongly against the proposal to charge farmers €22.50 for the collection of reactors, which would have been unfair and disproportionate to say the least, and  I am delighted that the Minister listened to ICSA on these issues.”

Concluding, Mr Barron reiterated that it remains hugely important to tackle the wildlife issue head-on as part of the wider TB eradication effort.  “That’s the best way to fully eradicate the disease from this country and if that was achieved, then the cost-cutting problem would be completely solved.”

Gilmartin pushes for change on commonages proposals at ICSA annual conference

14th December, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president, Gabriel Gilmartin, once again pushed for changes to the proposed new rules for commonages at the Association’s Annual Conference on Tuesday, 11th December 2012.  
The Department of Agriculture recently delayed sending out letters outlining the planned changes, a move which Mr Gilmartin welcomed, saying that receiving the letters would have caused a huge amount of confusion and controversy among commonage farmers.
Speaking at the conference, which was attended by the Minister for Agriculture, he said, “At the very least, a lengthy lead-in period is needed for a change of this magnitude.  However, to my mind, the main sticking point is the notion of collective agreement, which will be impossible to implement.  My fear is that active farmers will suffer when inactive and dormant shareholders decide to come back and stock up as a result of the new rules.”  
“However, I am far more concerned about the potential for a farmer who complies with an agreement to be penalised because other shareholders don’t comply.  I simply don’t think it’s appropriate or acceptable to make one farmer accountable for the action or inaction of another, particularly when their Single Farm Payment or DAS payment can be cut.  ICSA wants a guarantee that this aspect of the new rules will be changed.”

ICSA annual conference: Gilmartin challenges Government on commitment to expansion targets

11th December, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president, Gabriel Gilmartin, is challenging the Government to step up to the plate and show it means what it says about increasing exports from the agri-food sector.  

Speaking at ICSA’s annual conference at the Alexander Hotel in Dublin this evening (Tuesday 11th December), Mr Gilmartin said “actions speak louder than words,” questioning the Government’s commitment to the agricultural expansion targets set out in the Food Harvest 2020 report.  

Mr Gilmartin welcomed diplomatic initiatives to open up the Chinese market, and pointed to possible opportunities in Russia also.  

However he emphasised that the Government needs to support the primary producer as the main driver in this export expansion, and said that the cuts made to farming in the recent budget show that the Government’s commitment to the sector is not as strong as the “fine words.”

“The end of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme represents a huge blow to the sector – and displays a short-sighted approach at best from the Government.  Cuts to the Disadvantaged Area Scheme will hit those who can least afford it, particularly in the West of Ireland.  Increases in Capital Gains Tax will hit family farm transfers quite hard – and that’s no good if you want young farmers to take over the family farm and boost production.”

Mr Gilmartin also suggested that Pillar Two rural development funding should be targeted at the most disadvantaged farmers.  “The Disadvantaged Area Scheme and agri-environment schemes need to deliver better payments to those who need it most.”  

Summing up, the ICSA leader also expressed concern about the CAP reform negotiations and said expansion will be dependent on securing a new regime that is right for Ireland.  “If we get the CAP deal right, we can still go some way to achieving the targets of Food Harvest 2020.  ICSA is working hard to secure a CAP deal that’s right for Ireland and the other 26 member states; that gives confidence to our primary producers to ramp up production; and is fair to the young farmers and other active, productive farmers who weren’t dealt a fair hand in the last CAP reform.”

Click here to view photos from the event

ICSA frustrated at further farm cuts in Budget 2013

5th December 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has expressed frustration at a policy of continued slashes to vital farm schemes, notably a cut in the Disadvantaged Area Scheme and the replacement of the current Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme (SCWS) with a ‘suckler lite’ scheme.  “The €5 million (20%) cut in the SCWS is extremely disappointing and moreover, the fact that the Minister is relying on unused Single Farm Payment funds of €10 million for it gives rise to considerable doubt as to the Government’s long term commitment to the scheme.”  

However, ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin did acknowledge that the Minister would be continuing the Beef Technology Adoption Programme (BTAP) for 2013 and had found €3 million for the introduction of a sheep technology programme along the lines of BTAP.  He also welcomed that the Grassland Sheep scheme would continue to be funded in 2013 to the tune of €14 million.  

Mr Gilmartin said he was particularly annoyed at cuts to the Disadvantaged Area Scheme.  “The DAS has yet again been seen as a soft target with a reduction in the maximum eligible area from 34 hectares to 30 hectares.  This is the second cut of this nature to the scheme following a cut from a maximum of 45 hectares in 2009.  The DAS is absolutely vital to many low income farmers, particularly in the West.  At least farmers in mountain areas will escape this cut, but it will affect 38% of farmers who are eligible for the DAS.”

On the issue of capital taxation, Mr Gilmartin welcomed the announcement of Capital Gains Tax relief for farm restructuring.  However, he said that the increase in capital taxes to 33% and the reduction of 10% in the Capital Acquisitions Tax threshold were very regrettable.  “In the case of farmers, most capital taxes are levied on family farm transfers where the farm is handed over from one generation to the next.  These transactions do not represent an actual ‘cashing-in’ of assets so today’s changes to capital taxation is disappointing.”

ICSA welcomed the extension of the 50% stock relief rate (introduced in last year’s Budget for dairy farm partnerships) to all farm partnerships.  

Mr Gilmartin said that the fuel rebate for essential road users was welcome and should result in some relief on the cost of transport of agricultural goods, but he said much more needs to be done on green diesel for agricultural contractors and farmers.

ICSA AGM & Annual Conference: Alexander Hotel, Dublin, 11th December, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association will host its AGM and annual conference at the Alexander Hotel, Fenian Street, Dublin on Tuesday, 11th December 2012.   

The AGM gets underway at 3pm and is open to National Executive members only.  The Annual Conference commences at 6pm, and is open to all members to attend.  An impressive line-up of speakers will address the gathering, including ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, economist and former special advisor to the late Brian Lenihan TD, Dr. Alan Ahearne, and Dr. Thia Hennessy of Teagasc.

The conference will reflect on a challenging year for Irish farming, discuss the ability of the government to support agri-food’s continuing success, and assess the future of Food Harvest 2020 in the light of current proposals for CAP reform post-2013.  

ICSA will be running a number of buses from various locations around the country to bring members to the meeting.  Members who wish to avail of the bus service, or who want more information on the event, should contact the ICSA National Office on 057 8662120.

New figures from CSO underline need to address rising cost of farm inputs

30th November, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president, Gabriel Gilmartin, says the latest statistics on agricultural prices released by the CSO underline the need to address the continued rise in farm input costs.  

The preliminary estimates for the Agricultural Price Indices 2012 indicate an input price increase of 4.2% compared to 2011 costs – mainly due to increases in energy costs and feedstuffs (8.6% and 5.5% respectively).  

Mr. Gilmartin said, “The most worrying thing about these figures is that outputs increased by 3.6% – which is clearly well behind the increase in production costs.  It is also important to note that on many farms this year, extra inputs such as feed were needed to make up for the effects of the bad weather this summer, such as a shortage of good quality silage.”

“There are steps the Government can take to address the issue of steadily increasing input prices.  For example, ICSA has argued that the taxes and duties on fuel in particular are not only a huge burden on farmers and other diesel-reliant businesses, but are damaging the Exchequer also by causing those who can, to purchase their fuel outside of the jurisdiction.  ICSA’s pre-Budget 2013 submission calls for a suspension of the carbon tax, which is coming in at over 6 cent per litre on green diesel (or €20/tonne – up from €15/ tonne before May 1st, 2012) and seriously hinders the ability to produce at competitive prices.”

ICSA: Breakdown of EU Budget talks will make securing right CAP deal more difficult

23rd November, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has expressed disappointment at the breakdown of talks on the EU budget framework for 2014-2020.  

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said, “It is disappointing that the talks have been suspended, and that they won’t recommence until the New Year.  It represents a significant setback to achieving the right CAP deal for Ireland.  It would be ideal to finalise the CAP reform during Ireland’s presidency of the EU in the first six months of 2013, but today’s events mean that will be more difficult to achieve.”

“Having said that however, it is important that the various leaders, including An Taoiseach, didn’t agree to unsuitable Budget measures just for the sake of reaching agreement.”

Taoiseach must stand firm in opposition to EU budget cuts

22nd November, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has urged the Taoiseach to stand firm in his opposition to cuts to Ireland’s CAP allocation during EU budget negotiations.  

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin made the call on day one of the meeting of EU leaders to thrash out a framework for the EU budget from 2014 onwards.  “The Common Agricultural Policy currently injects €1.6 billion euro a year into the Irish economy through the Single Farm Payment.  It is absolutely crucial that this is maintained and Enda Kenny must be clear that this is a red line issue as far as Ireland is concerned.”

Mr. Gilmartin called for the complete rejection of proposals by European Council president Herman Von Rompuy to cut the overall budget by around €80 billion, including a €25 billion reduction in agriculture and rural development spending.  “The Taoiseach must make every effort to resist these cuts.  Agriculture in Ireland has huge potential for growth and job creation, and ambitious expansion targets have been set by Food Harvest 2020.  All of this potential would be severely compromised if our CAP allocation is not maintained at the same level in this budget.”

“Ultimately, every Irish consumer benefits from a well-supported farming sector, and ICSA has made it clear that the Taoiseach must defend our CAP funding in the strongest terms to ensure Irish agriculture’s continued viability.”

ICSA calls for complete re-think of proposed new commonage rules

16th November, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is calling for a complete re-think on the controversial issue of the proposed new rules for commonages.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin has welcomed the news that the Minister for Agriculture has delayed sending letters due to go out to farmers, outlining the minimum and maximum number of sheep for the entire land parcel as well as for each shareholder.  ICSA had argued that sending the letters at this point would have led to huge confusion.  He says the way in which the new rules are being rolled out is very unsatisfactory.    

“The main sticking point is the idea of collective agreement.  The proposals call on all farmers with shares in the commonage – be they active, inactive, or dormant – to come together to agree on what way to meet the total minimum stocking levels.  We see this as potentially hugely difficult.”

“In the first place, while on some commonages all shareholders are active and work well with each other, and in these cases collective agreement may be possible, the fact is that in a good number of cases, strained relations between the shareholders will make agreement impossible; there is a strong possibility also that shareholders who previously got on well will fall out over the detail of the proposals. My fear is that active farmers will suffer when inactive and dormant shareholders decide to come back and stock up as a result of the new rules.”

“However, I am far more concerned about the potential for an individual farmer who complies with whatever agreement is reached to be penalised due to non-compliance of one or more of the other shareholders.  Non-compliance on the commonage stocking level can lead to penalties being applied to Single Farm Payments and Disadvantaged Area Payments – this could be disastrous.  I don’t think it’s appropriate or acceptable to effectively make one farmer accountable for the action or inaction of another.  ICSA is seeking a guarantee from the Minister that this aspect of the new rules would be seriously reconsidered.”

Mr. Gilmartin added, “I am also concerned that the band between the minimum and maximum sheep numbers set out by the Department is too narrow to be workable, and I would strongly urge the Minister to review these levels.”