15 November 2017

ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch today met with Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten at the COP 23 Climate Change conference in Bonn.  The ICSA man delivered a message that farming in Ireland and other EU countries should not be framed in negativity about climate change.  “ICSA strongly believes that food production should be promoted in areas where it is done efficiently.  Equally, farming must be financially sustainable. Farmers can contribute positively to climate change mitigation through sequestration and through renewable energy.”


“Therefore, we must have policies at EU and national level that deliver greater use of renewable energy produced by European farmers in a sustainable way.  We need to stand over sustainable beef and dairy production in Ireland and reject the absurd notion that reducing livestock on Irish farms does anything to help the climate when all we are doing is relocating production to other parts of the globe.”


“If we want farmers to contribute to more sustainable food and energy systems, the first and most important requirement is to ensure that farmers are financially sustainable.  Farms which are viable can re-invest to make their farms even more efficient.   Policies which support EU farmers can achieve this; policies which further undermine the viability of farms are a road to nowhere.”


14 November 2017

At a meeting with the Minister for Justice & Equality Charles Flanagan to discuss the ICSA agricultural crime survey, ICSA president Patrick Kent said that rural people want more resources in community policing, stiffer sentences for repeat offenders and closer consultation between rural stakeholders, local authorities and An Garda Siochana.


“ICSA’s National Agricultural Crime Survey undertaken in conjunction with WIT, revealed alarmingly that 45% of agricultural crime goes unreported for a variety of reasons.  These include little faith that the Gardaí have adequate resources to recover goods or catch the perpetrators and a sense that the justice system is not penalising these criminals sufficiently.  We need to see these issues addressed urgently.”


ICSA rural development chair Seamus Sherlock said he was acutely aware of many in rural areas who are afraid in their own homes.  He told the Minister it was vital that much more be done on ensuring community policing was at the heart of the Garda strategy.  “We need the local Garda to know the people, to know what’s going on and to be living close to the rural community.  This is not necessarily about Garda stations; it is about every citizen in rural Ireland knowing their local guard and having a sense that the Gardaí are never far away.”


ICSA is supportive of the CCTV initiative announced by Minister Flanagan which is making €3 million available to help install CCTV cameras.   “We need to use this funding as a first step in strategic rural areas where crime has been a problem to demonstrate that further funding will yield a positive dividend to the state in the fight against crime.  Crime is costing farmers an average €4328 and is adding to insurance costs for everybody. ICSA is urging community groups to apply for this funding.   ICSA believes that ongoing state help with maintenance of cameras will also be necessary and outlined this to the Minister.”



ICSA president Patrick Kent has described last evening’s meeting with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as, “A very useful exchange on the pressing issues currently affecting Irish agriculture including Brexit, Mercosur, CAP funding and climate change.” The meeting was also attended by Michael Creed TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Andrew Doyle TD, Minister of State for Food, Forestry & Horticulture and had inputs from ICMSA, IFA and Macra na Feirme.

Mr Kent thanked Mr Varadkar and the Ministers present for the frank exchange and said, “Both short term and longer term strategies are required to navigate the key issues pertaining to the Irish agriculture and food sectors. This requires vision and strong leadership and I look forward to engaging further with the Taoiseach and Ministers Creed and Doyle going forward.”




ICSA Louth chairman Gavin Carberry has said he is outraged at the latest farm related theft to occur in the county. Mr Carberry was referring to the theft of cattle worth €17,000 from the farm of Tom Kirk in Ravanny, Dundalk Co Louth over the weekend. “It’s a disgrace that incidents like this continue to happen and I would encourage anyone with information to contact the Gardaí.”

The theft is believed to have occurred on Saturday evening (4 November) between 6.00pm and 7.00pm when 14 cattle were loaded into a lorry and driven away. A neighbour is believed to have witnessed the lorry being driven suspiciously with no headlights on.

Mr Carberry said “ICSA has undertaken a National Agricultural Crime Survey in conjunction with Waterford Institute of Technology where statistics have shown that two thirds of farmers have experienced crime related to their farming activities. Financially it’s wreaking havoc on farmers, not to mention the stress and emotional impact these crimes have. We all need to work together and be vigilant if we have any hope of seeing that number reduce. We cannot accept crime as part and parcel of life in rural Ireland.”

The cattle in question are described as red Limousins crossed with Charolais and are all approximately 18 months. A reward has been offered for any information leading to their recovery. Relevant information should be passed to Ardee Garda Station on 041 685 3222 or any Garda station.



06 November 2017

ICSA president Patrick Kent has slammed the Citizens’ Assembly proposal to tax farmers for food production emissions as a completely daft idea which is “a lamentable example of group think emerging from a part-time weekend talk shop. When you get daft proposals on additional taxes for farmers enthusiastically backed by 89% of respondents and a proposal for a new quango backed by 98% of respondents, it is obvious that this does not arise from balanced debate and careful reflection.  Instead it suggests that the findings have been orchestrated by the way the debate has been framed and the questions put.”

“Did anyone ponder the hypocrisy of favouring carbon taxes for the end users of fuel but not for beef or dairy?   The reality is that if the Citizens’ Assembly was asked if they favoured food taxes at retail level they would have been a lot slower to jump on the bandwagon.  Moreover, they would then have to reflect on the fact that any such tax would have to be levied not just in Ireland but in every country in the world where we export food.

Applying a tax on Irish food production is daft because it ignores the inconvenient truth that people choose to eat and that most of these people are not actually in Ireland but in markets all over Europe and further afield.  If we close down Irish beef farmers, we simply relocate the production of beef to other parts of the globe where they don’t give a toss about Citizens’ Assemblies.   How stupid would it be to reduce Irish agricultural output so that the likes of Brazil could expand at a far higher environmental cost?

“At least there was some acknowledgement that farming activities also sequester carbon and that farmers should be incentivised for providing carbon sinks.  Contrary to popular belief, this should not be about sitka spruce plantations which are actually very limited in terms of sequestration but about well managed grassland farming combined with the maintenance of biodiverse landscapes.”

“Government and all public representatives need to man up and stop outsourcing policy decisions to hobby weekend policy makers.   It is a wasteful diversionary tactic when we could incentivise farmers to supply solar energy or invest in anaerobic digestion which produces renewable heat while reducing slurry emissions.   Ireland also needs to reject the absurd EU Commission proposals to undermine crop based biofuels on EU farms which produce up to 70% lower GHG emissions than fossil fuels.  While electric vehicles might eventually be attractive as an alternative, we have to deal with today’s fleet today.

“The Government also needs to stand up and be counted on the climate impact of a potential Mercosur trade deal which in essence will result in increased imports of beef and ethanol at significant environmental cost when we could produce all we need of these products in the EU without the global transport emissions involved in imports from South America.”



1 NOV 2O17

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said it is time for common sense to prevail on the issue of tractor NCTs following a meeting with the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport in Dublin today. “The lack of consultation regarding the introduction of this directive has resulted in ludicrous proposals being presented, such as the unworkable 25km rule. This has resulted in widespread panic amongst farmers who felt they were going to be penalised for simply carrying out their farming activities.”

“A process of engagement with stakeholders has now begun which will hopefully bring a sense of clarity to the situation. ICSA will be pressing the Department to ensure that NCTs will not apply to tractors used for the purposes of farming or agricultural contracting.”




ICSA president Patrick Kent has said the association is actively encouraging more women to become involved at senior policy setting and decision making level. Mr Kent said, “We are making progress on getting more women involved. Following recent county elections, there are now eight women on ICSA’s National Executive and we would hope to see that number increase over the next few years.”

“A major part of ICSA’s schedule of events for Ploughing 2017 was the daily panel discussions on Women in Agriculture. Each day the association heard from women in the sector with vast knowledge and insight on a wide range of issues. ICSA is keen to bring that perspective to our decision making. This is not a quota system for gender balance but a systematic effort to harness the talents of some of the most capable people in our society. ICSA will continue to have an electoral process which all candidates have to go through. There are plenty of women farmers who are very capable, they just need to step forward and get elected.”

“It is important to note that this has not happened by chance; we have been actively encouraging more female participation and with eight members already on National Executive, we expect it will be a welcoming place for even more women. The issue will remain high on our agenda.”



20 OCTOBER 2017

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has said that the threat of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) must be removed as a means of acquiring land for non-essential infrastructure projects. Mr Sherlock was speaking following the disclosure by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport that the public consultation on Greenway undertaken earlier this year does not apply to the contentious Athlone to Galway section or the Kerry and Connemara Greenways, leaving many farmers angered.

Commenting Mr Sherlock said, “We all support the formation of ‘Greenways’ and advancing rural Ireland through tourism but these projects must be delivered with farmer consultation and goodwill. Landowners along the proposed route thought their concerns were being listened to at long last with the consultation process but now we’re told that the consultation only applies to the Greenways of the far distant future. Unfortunately, this means the threat of CPOs looms large once again.”

“ICSA is very much in favour of new infrastructure, be they roads or Greenways, but not at any cost. We will stand firmly with our members who believe that they have been bullied by the threat of CPOs. We call for the immediate withdrawal of these threats so we can all sit down around the table and work out the best routes going forward.”




20 OCTOBER 2017

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the decision of UN Climate Change to partner with Ethanol Europe Renewables Ltd provides strong vindication for the argument that farmers in Europe should be actively encouraged to grow crops for biofuel production. “ICSA has strongly opposed EU Commission proposals to alter the Renewable Energy Directive (referred to as RED II) which would undermine biofuels produced from crops grown by European farmers such as sugar beet, maize and rapeseed. It is more clear than ever that there is no coherent reason for the proposed EU renewable energy U-turn which would phase out crop based biofuels and ICSA is calling on Minister Naughten to oppose this at Council of Ministers level.”

ICSA believes that hard pressed tillage farmers in Europe need every possible outlet for their produce at a time when record high global inventories of cereals has led to successive years of low prices for tillage farmers. Biofuels are an important source of revenues for European farmers (in excess of €6.6 billion annually). In addition, biofuel production provides European farmers with important by-products such as high quality protein and energy feed such as distillers’ grains.

The importance of these by-products cannot be overstated as there is a significant deficit of protein crops for animal feeds in Europe. Distillers’ grains are a significant ingredient in dairy and beef rations in Ireland and provide an alternative to expensive imported soya. Moreover, distillers’ grains from EU ethanol plants are GM free. The GM status of livestock feed is looking increasingly significant in terms of meat and dairy exports to high value markets.

However, the main reason for the evolution of the biofuel sector has been the targets set for renewables as a percentage of total energy consumption, which is a central element to EU climate change policy. The target for 2030 is that renewable sources will account for 27% of total energy consumption.

While this policy makes sense on a number of levels, the EU has been incoherent in terms of achieving renewable targets in the transport sector and at present, only 6% of transport fuel comes from renewables (mostly biofuels).

The proposals to do a complete U-turn on biofuels under the EU Clean Energy Package (involving re-writing the Renewable Energy Directive) makes a mockery of EU Climate Change strategy. Crop based biofuels are achieving 65-70% less GHG emissions than fossil fuels. This is now starkly exposed by the partnership of UN Climate Change with Irish agri processor, Ethanol Europe Renewables Ltd (EERL) which will be showcased with an international alliance of ethanol producers at the COP 23 event in Bonn next month.

“If biofuels are good enough for UN Climate Change they should be part and parcel of EU climate change strategy. It is now urgent that Ireland supports biofuels, in the interests of farmers all over Europe and in the interests of ameliorating the pressures on Irish farmers to reach unattainable targets on emissions reductions when there are ready made improvements to be found in the non-ETS sector via reducing transport emissions from existing combustion engines.”




18 OCTOBER 2017

ICSA president Patrick Kent has welcomed news the cabinet has approved a request from Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to exempt family farm transactions from the 6% stamp duty rate announced in Budget 2018. ICSA understands that the upper age limit of 67 for consanguinity relief will be abolished so that land can be transferred within families at a 1% rate. This will be included in the Finance Bill.

“ICSA has been demanding a reversal on this issue since budget day. However, it is clear that the Government still doesn’t get it when it comes to the damage done by the trebling of stamp duty to 6%. The stamp duty rate of 6% will still apply to land purchase. This is a savage assault on the people who get up early in the morning.” 

 “Previous government policy was supposed to support the consolidation of fragmented farm holdings. ICSA believes this tax is an own-goal as it will likely reduce the overall take of money because people will be deterred from getting up early, working hard and looking to finance farm consolidation projects. It is also clear that it will undermine the ability of farmers who want to expand their holding to spend money on improving newly bought land because additional money will have to be borrowed to fund the stamp duty thus reducing what is available to reclaim or upgrade land. In the short term this will reduce employment and enterprise in rural areas, in the medium term it will slow down productivity growth on newly bought farmland.”