ICSA calls for extra Garda resources to counter illegal butchering activity and cattle theft

12th November, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has condemned those responsible for the illegal butchering of cattle carcases discovered in Co. Louth this morning, and called for extra resources for Gardaí to investigate this incident as well as incidents of cattle theft.

ICSA’s Connaught Ulster vice president John Flynn said, “ICSA condemns this activity in the strongest terms possible and the first priority must be to track down those responsible and ensure that prosecutions are brought sooner rather than later. This is outrageous criminal activity and whoever is involved must face the fullest extent of the law. I would call on anyone with information to contact the Gardaí without delay.”

Mr Flynn said concerns arise regarding traceability as a result of the discovery. “If, as the Louth County Vet believes, these animals were butchered with the intention of selling the meat for human consumption, then there are potentially serious traceability issues that need to be thoroughly investigated and addressed by the Department of Agriculture and the Food Safety Authority. The farming community and governing bodies work extremely hard to ensure that Irish meat is safe and traceable for all consumers and any threat to that work cannot be tolerated.”

This incident also highlights the issue of illegal activity in the Border area in particular and ICSA is convinced that the Gardaí need better resources to deal with increasing crime, particularly theft, in the counties along the Border. “Anecdotally, there has been a significant increase in crime in the Border region and livestock theft is part of a bigger picture involving theft of diesel and machinery and other high-value items. It appears that the criminals involved are highly organised and have strong local knowledge and it is clear that the Gardaí need far better resources to tackle this,” Mr Flynn concluded.

ICSA comment on TLT receivership

11th November, 2013

Reacting to the news that livestock exporter TLT International has gone into receivership, ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said that it reflects the risk-averse nature of the banking system at present. “The live export trade is vital to the cattle and sheep sectors here but the sector faces huge challenges given the difficulties in securing appropriate commitment in terms of long term financing from the banking sector.”

Mr Gilmartin has called on the receiver to provide immediate clarity on how many marts and how many farmers are exposed. “The receiver must then outline how he proposes to secure full payment of all monies owed to farmers and marts.” Mr Gilmartin also said that the receiver and the bank involved must realise the importance of getting a satisfactory resolution in a way which does not undermine confidence in the trade.

He added that farmers and marts could not be expected to solve the shortcomings in the banking system or to handle the inherent risks involved. “The live export trade can be viable. However, live exporters are very vulnerable to any interruption of cash flow, which is an occasional reality of the business. In general, the solution must involve facilitating live exporters to continue in business and trade their way out of any temporary problems. Anything that undermines confidence and trust can turn a small problem into a big one overnight.”

Mr Gilmartin also expressed concern that in the case of TLT, the receiver will, in following the normal rules for receivership, put marts and farmers at the end of the queue. “There is reason to be anxious that the process will result in losses for some marts and possibly for some individual farmers who do not deal through the marts. The Government will need to exert pressure on the Irish banks to ensure that they support the mart and farming sectors who have an exposure.”

ICSA suckler chairman Dermot Kelleher advised farmers with stock to sell to hold their nerve. “All the early signs are that the impact on the weanling trade has been minimal with a good trade reported in marts at the weekend notwithstanding the news. The realities of supply and demand for weanlings remain much the same, both in terms of the domestic trade and live exports.

Other live exporters are active at the ringside. However, demand for stock for the Italian market has been weaker throughout 2013 and is back some 30% compared with 2012. At the end of October, year to date exports to Italy stood at less than 25,000 head.”

ICSA: Continued vigilance needed on horsemeat

31st October 2013

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin has warned of the need for continued vigilance for meat products in light of the discovery of horsemeat in imported tinned meat in UK shops today. “The tinned meat is a Romanian product but it highlights the fact that the authorities need to remain on guard against incorrectly labelled product. It demonstrates the need for ongoing DNA testing.”

Mr Gilmartin also advised consumers to examine all meat products for country of origin. “The best advice is to choose fresh Irish meat properly labelled and in a supermarket or butcher shop that is committed to buying Irish, quality assured product,” he concluded.

ICSA calls on Road Safety Authority to reverse change to maximum vehicle height

30th October 2013

ICSA has called on the Road Safety Authority to urgently reverse the decision to reduce maximum vehicle heights to 4.65m. Under these new restrictions, the vast majority of lorries transporting fodder will have their loads significantly cut; only two rows of 4×4 round bales will be legal on lorries, while large square bales, typically three feet high, will only be legal when loaded three high on most trailers.

ICSA President Gabriel Gilmartin noted that “These restrictions, which will come into force on November 1st, will reduce a typical load of straw by one third. Haulage costs will remain constant, so the cost of bales will inevitably rise. Early indications suggest that this could be between €5 and €10 per bale.”

“This change will have dire implications for farmers buying fodder this winter, particularly those dependent on straw being transported long distance from the east and south of the country. It is a restriction that is unworkable in practice and must be reversed as soon as possible.”

ACC news bad for expanding businesses

25th October 2013

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin has expressed alarm at news that ACC bank was withdrawing all banking services. “Less competition is bad news for farmers and other businesses. We are already seeing the impact on business of less competition where loans are harder to get and fees and interest margins are creeping up. This is bad news for farmers and business, especially progressive enterprises that are expanding and increasing exports.”

“It is very worrying that the likes of Rabobank are pulling the plug. The Government needs to urgently examine what can be done to ensure sufficient competition in banking and how to expand credit to export oriented businesses such as farming. Today’s news is a worrying development and it will be a big concern to businesses and farmers who will now need to deal elsewhere.”

ICSA reminds farmers to avail of car and trailer licence entitlements

25th October, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has reminded farmers to ensure that they are properly licensed to drive vehicles with trailers attached. The association has pointed out that the Road Safety Authority are currently facilitating the reinstatement of a car and trailer licence (BE category) to drivers’ current licences. This opportunity specifically refers to drivers who held a full car licence before 13 November 1989 (i.e. the old ‘red licence’) and who did not then avail of the car and trailer licence option.

ICSA rural development chairman, John Barron, said “As many farmers as possible need to be made aware of this small window of opportunity. The ICSA acknowledges the Road Safety Authority’s newspaper advertising campaign in relation to the issue, but wants to ensure that no eligible farmer misses out at this time. Trailers form an integral part of day to day farming, and farmers should ensure that they are properly licensed to utilise them on public roads.”

In order to have the BE category reinstated on their licence, drivers must have been born before 13 November 1972 and have held a full driving licence for a car before 13 November 1989. Applicants must complete an assessment form available on the RSA website (www.rsa.ie) and return it to the RSA before Friday 8th November 2013.

ICSA: TB restrictions must not prevent necessary purchase of animals

22nd October, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is calling on the authorities to ensure that TB restrictions are sufficiently flexible to allow beef finishers to buy in cattle.

ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan says, “At the moment, several DVOs allow farmers to apply for a derogation to purchase cattle while their herd is either restricted due to TB or suspected TB. This derogation is extremely important for beef finishers who depend on being able to buy in cattle for their livelihood. As these farmers only ever sell cattle to meat plants, there is no question of spreading the disease to other farms.”

“However, this measure is currently under scrutiny by the European Commission, who may insist that this facility be removed for all restricted or suspect herds. This would have a devastating impact on the incomes of beef finishers who rely on being able to buy in store cattle to make their living.”

“ICSA is insisting that the current common sense approach applied by a number of DVOs remains in place and is built into future national policy on this issue. TB eradication is taken very seriously by farmers but flexibility is extremely important in order to allow finishers to make their living.”

Budget 2014: ICSA welcomes move towards better breeding in suckler herd

15th October, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has welcomed funding of €23 million for a scheme to improve genetics in the suckler herd, announced as part of today’s Budget measures.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said, “The new Beef Genomics Scheme for the suckler herd is a step in the right direction to underpin the future of the industry. However, the important thing is to build on that going forward, in particular as part of the new CAP in 2015.”

In relation to the other farming sector measures announced today, Mr Gilmartin noted that the extension of the Capital Gains Tax relief scheme addresses an anomaly which previously disincentivised older farmers from leasing their land out on a long term basis for fear of losing the CGT relief.

The ICSA leader welcomed the continuation of the current level of funding for the Disadvantaged Area Scheme and the increase to €15 million in funding for the Grassland Sheep Scheme for 2014. However, he said the lack of an agri-environment scheme for 2014 was very disappointing.

He also noted that the focus of the independent review of farmers’ taxation should be to encourage land mobility and a move away from conacre to long-term leasing, but added that ICSA would be keeping a very close eye on the review to ensure that vital reliefs would not be lost.

ICSA questions price of concentrates

15th October, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is questioning the price of concentrate feedstuffs and calling on milling companies to reduce their prices in line with the falling prices of the main ingredients.

ICSA beef committee chair, Edmond Phelan said, “Compared to this time last year, the cost of grain is down about 26 per cent and soya is down 25 per cent. However, the cost of a tonne of beef finishing ration is only down about 10 per cent – from €320 last year to in or around €290 now. Realistically, even taking into consideration the costs of labour and delivery, the price to the farmer should be down about another 10 per cent to reflect the fall in input costs.”

“It is only right that the fall in commodity prices would be passed on to farmers by the milling companies and I would call on them to do so without delay.”

ICSA calls once more for scrapping of calendar farming regime

15th October, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is once more calling upon the authorities to scrap the calendar farming restrictions for slurry spreading, which ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin describes as “unworkable and unrealistic, given the exceptional cover of grass on farms at present.”

The second half of 2013 has delivered exceptional summer and autumn grass growth. However, further exploitation of the considerable amount of grass currently in fields will now be hamstrung by the impending slurry spreading restrictions. Farmers will be forced to spread over heavy covers of grass, which could be otherwise be used for grazing or late silage.

Mr Gilmartin noted that “grass growing conditions in Ireland have never been as good, and farmers must be allowed to avail of this opportunity to keep input costs down. The fact is that grass growth and ground conditions are extraordinary for this time of year, whereas the regulations are based on ‘normal’ conditions for October.

Therefore, applying the strict Nitrates Regulations makes no sense this year. Moreover, the Department of Agriculture must facilitate farmers in maximising the opportunity to utilise grass, so as to avoid any repeat of the hardship experienced by many during the first half of 2013.”

“At all times, farmers are working and planning with a close eye on the weather and ground conditions in order to comply with best farming practice in terms of efficiency, animal welfare and environmental concerns. This artificial deadline goes against all that, and the legislators must surely recognise the wisdom in being more flexible on this issue.”