ICSA CALLS FOR REOPENING OF SHEEP WELFARE SCHEME

21 DECEMBER 2017

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has called for the reopening of the Sheep Welfare Scheme to facilitate those who did not participate in the scheme in 2017. “There has been a significant underspend in the in the first year and on that basis I would urge the Department to show flexibility on the issue and facilitate those wishing to join for 2018 and beyond.”

“This is the first sheep scheme of its kind and there was pressure on all sides to get the scheme together quickly. Credit must be given to the Department that it was up and running in 2017 and that payments were made on time. However, it was never made clear that failure to apply for the scheme in 2017 would mean that farmers would be locked out for 2018. Many farmers and planners were completely unaware of this.”

“ICSA believes there should be no reason that farmers who, for a variety of reasons, did not apply in 2017 should be denied the opportunity to participate in the scheme in 2018 under the same criteria.”

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PATRICK KENT RE-ELECTED ICSA PRESIDENT

14 DECEMBER 2017

Patrick Kent has been re-elected ICSA national president at a meeting of the association’s national executive in Portlaoise tonight. Following the vote Mr Kent said, “It is an honour to have retained my position as president of ICSA. I am privileged to work with outstanding colleagues in the association; their dedication to defending the rights of farmers around the country is second to none and I am proud to be part of a great team.”

Continuing Mr Kent said, “The immediate priority is to get fodder to farmers in border and western regions struggling with weather related shortages. ICSA is actively sourcing fodder to help and is also pushing for Government assistance in the form of transport subsidies and meal vouchers. Further down the line, Mercosur and CAP reform will be critical issues in 2018.

We also have to turn the debate on climate change towards policies which recognise the potentially positive contribution of farmers in terms of more renewables and recognising increased efficiencies in minimising emissions and proper accounting of sequestration. I also pledge to continue to fight against unfair inspection penalties and insist on payment on time for all schemes.”

Hailing from New Ross, Co Wexford where he concentrates on suckler and sheep enterprises, this will be Mr Kent’s third term in office. His challenger in tonight’s vote was current ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock, whom he defeated narrowly.

Mr Kent will officially begin his final term as president at ICSA’s AGM and annual conference in the New Year.

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ANGER PALPABLE OVER GOVERNMENT INACTION ON FODDER SHORTAGES AT ICSA MEETING

13 DECEMBER 2017

At an ICSA meeting in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan last night there was huge anger at the reluctance of the Government to launch a fodder crisis scheme. Acknowledging the anger of those present, ICSA president Patrick Kent said, “Farmers are under pressure and it is clear from the meeting tonight that action is needed on this crisis sooner rather than later. Early intervention will be a better solution than letting it get out of hand.”

Mr Kent said, “ICSA has been sourcing fodder from the Southern half of the country to distribute to those most in need. From the information we have gathered tonight, the need for fodder in this region is immense. Our efforts will continue, however, a transport subsidy needs to be introduced as a matter of urgency as does a system of distributing meal vouchers to those worst affected.”

ICSA Cavan chairman Hugh Farrell said, “ICSA’s mission is to assist as many local farmers as possible. Fodder levels are chronically low due to the atrocious weather conditions we experienced in the border counties during the autumn months. It is imperative we get to grips with the situation now.”

On the evening, there was a lot of interest in the proposal by nutritionist Emmet Duffy of AW Ennis that the Government should subsidise products such as alfalfa, lucerne or straw pellets which would be ideal for inclusion in fodder stretcher mixes. A subsidy of €50/ton could make a decisive difference. These products can provide an efficient alternative to the high cost of transporting bales which are scarce anyway.

Concluding, ICSA president Patrick Kent said, “We have to look for smart and efficient solutions which can be delivered at short notice. It’s time for shoulders to put to the wheel and deliver these urgent practical solutions without delay.”

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ICSA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION TO TAKE PLACE THIS THURSDAY, 14 DECEMBER

12 DECEMBER 2017

ICSA will hold its presidential election this coming Thursday evening, 14 December at the Midlands Park Hotel in Portlaoise, Co Laois. Two candidates, current president Patrick Kent and rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock will go head to head in the vote, the outcome of which will decide who will lead the association for the next two years.

Proceedings on the night will begin at 8pm. Each candidate will make a presentation to the National Executive which will be followed by a Q&A session with the candidates. The vote will follow, with a result expected at 9pm.

For further enquiries, please contact ICSA on 057 8662120.

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ICSA MEETS MINISTER NAUGHTEN ON RENEWABLE ENERGY POLICIES

6 DECEMBER 2017

ICSA has met with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Mr Denis Naughten to make the case for renewable energy policies that could transform the outlook for farmers. ICSA president Patrick Kent said: “It is high time that we turn climate change targets into opportunities for farmers. Instead of the negativity, we could make agriculture part of the solution to climate change targets. However, this requires coherent Government support for national decisions and EU policies which drive renewable energy production from sustainable European farming strategies.”

Mr Kent said that ICSA pushed Minister Naughten to strongly oppose the slashing of the 7% biofuel mandate at the December Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels. ICSA also insisted that the Government should support anaerobic digestion and small scale, roof top solar energy in the Renewable Heat Incentive and Renewable Electricity Support Scheme.

“ICSA has been campaigning against the absurd EU proposals in the Renewable Energy Directive reform which would completely sabotage European farmers who sell over €6 billion worth of crops to biofuel plants in Europe. The loss of this outlet would further undermine EU cereal prices and cause the loss of vital GM free protein animal feeds which are a by-product of biofuel production in Europe. In any event, Ireland needs to have more not less biofuels in the fuel mix if we are to have any hope of meeting climate change targets and in order to avoid even more severe obligations on livestock emissions.”

“ICSA has also been campaigning to make anaerobic digestion a reality in many counties. Apart from the potential to sell energy and to make farms more viable, anaerobic digestion can reduce slurry spreading problems, reduce dependence on fertiliser imports and lower emissions.”

“ICSA also called for roof top solar on farm sheds to get a ring fenced piece of the renewable electricity pie. Some farms have significant electricity consumption patterns but they need to sell surplus to the grid.”

“All of these policies would mark a coherent response to the climate change challenge and more importantly lower the risk of climate change fines for this country. Furthermore, at a time when many farms are struggling for viability due to exploitation in food markets, we must deliver other income possibilities to farmers.”

The ICSA delegation also included general secretary Eddie Punch and rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock. “ICSA was satisfied with the engagement with Minister Naughten particularly with imminent decisions on the renewable heat incentive, further consideration of the renewable electricity support scheme and the crunch phase of the EU biofuel package. We are hopeful that he has been listening to the ICSA view.”

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ICSA PUSHES FOR EXTENSION TO HEDGE CUTTING & VEGETATION BURNING DATES AT OIREACHTAS MEETING

6 DECEMBER 2017

ICSA has laid out a strong case for the extension of hedge cutting and vegetation burning dates in a presentation on the Heritage Bill to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Following the meeting ICSA president Patrick Kent said, “We believe that being able to control vegetation on the hills needs the added flexibility of the month of March and likewise we believe that flexibility around hedge cutting in August is essential.”

On the issue of burning Mr Kent said, “The reality is that burning in the winter months is seldom feasible and that short days and weather patterns means that February rarely works. It must be understood that the land we are talking about is not usually suitable for topping or other types of mechanical control. If we are really interested in wildlife, the best outcome in the long term is achieved by livestock grazing in an extensive manner. It is also important to note that there is a code of practice around controlled burning which ICSA fully advocates.”

On the issue of hedge cutting Mr Kent impressed upon the Committee that, “In practice, farmers are trying to get it all done in three months from September to early December. However, as we have seen this year, a lot of that period is beset with heavy rainfall and poor ground conditions. Moreover neatly trimmed hedges are a critical piece of road safety infrastructure. ICSA believes that roadside hedges in particular should be dealt with in August. If we could at least get the roadside hedge cutting out of the way in August, it makes it more feasible to get the internal hedges done in September and October.

It must also be noted that in GLAS some 7,500 farmers have planted 1,200km of new hedgerows and another 3,300km has been rejuvenated by coppicing and hedge laying. This demonstrates that farmers are keen to maintain diverse landscapes where relatively small fields are divided by hedges. But if we make the maintenance of hedges too challenging by unduly harsh limitations on hedge cutting, then we are creating a perverse disincentive to any more hedgerow planting and a more bland, open countryside fenced only by wire.”

ICSA strongly commended the bill to the Committee insisting we have to be pragmatic about the problems that are impacting severely on farmers and on road users right now.

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ICSA TO HOLD FODDER CRISIS MEETING IN BALLYCONNELL

4 DECEMBER 2017

ICSA is holding a meeting on the looming fodder crisis at the Slieve Russell Hotel, Ballyconnell, Co Cavan on the evening of Tuesday 12 December at 8.00pm. The purpose of the meeting is to explore ways to cope with fodder scarcity and to look at alternatives to too much dependency on hay, silage and straw.

ICSA Cavan chairman Hugh Farrell said, “ICSA has pushed the Department of Agriculture for an urgent fodder transport subsidy. We have to get fodder to where it is needed most as a matter of urgency so the issue of subsidised transport needs to be addressed. We also need to look at ways of supplementing the fodder we do have in order to make it stretch. To this end, ICSA is also calling for a system of meal vouchers to be introduced to help those most affected.”

“I would encourage all local farmers to attend, particularly those who believe the scarcity of fodder may become an issue for them over the coming months. ICSA will be on hand to assist and is actively sourcing fodder supplies to help those most in need.”

Concluding, Mr Farrell said, “ICSA officials will also be addressing the issue of slurry spreading on the night so I would also encourage anybody affected by that issue to attend also.”

Guest speakers on the night will be:

Michael Davey

Beef & Dairy Nutritionist with Specialist Nutrition

Emmet Duffy

AW Ennis – Erin Farm Feeds

Adam Woods

Farmers Journal

Patrick Kent

ICSA National President

All farmers are welcome to attend.

For further information, please contact Hugh Farrell, ICSA Cavan chairman, on 083 4841714 or ICSA office on 057 8662120.

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ICSA WELCOMES EU CAP COMMUNICATION AS AMBITIOUS BUT HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR MORE FUNDING

29 NOVEMBER 2017

ENHANCED ROLE FOR MEMBER STATES HAS POSITIVES BUT ALSO RISKS

ICSA president Patrick Kent has welcomed the communication from the Commission on the future CAP saying it represented “an ambitious vision of the role of the Common Agricultural Policy while recognising that fair income for farmers and generational renewal had to be at the heart of it.”

However, Mr Kent said that the communication was under the shadow of uncertainty around the budget for the CAP post 2020. “Unless there is more CAP funding, it is pointless being more ambitious.”

Regarding plans to give member states more flexibility around the design of individual CAP programmes, Mr Kent said that while there were potential attractions to this strategy he would be worried that some member states would go over the top in terms of regulations and implementation in a way that would disadvantage their farmers compared to other member states’ farmers. “ICSA would also be worried that the drafting of individual member state CAP programmes could get bogged down in endless tic-taccing between the Department and Commission, leading to delayed payments and potentially unforeseen penalties afterwards in EU audits.”

“However, on the upside this might be the opportunity to solve previously intractable problems like land eligibility payments on the basis that the EU should not be dictating whether a bit of farm roadway should be eligible or not. Even more significant might be the possibility to devise a better scheme for suckler or sheep farmers but of course, the downside to that might be that France, for example, might outdo us leaving their suckler or sheep farmers way more competitive. This could have unforeseen consequences in terms of who ends up exporting weanlings to Italy or Turkey.”

Mr Kent welcomed the fact that capping payments was on the agenda and expressed the hope that a realistic cap would be in place across Europe with a view to ensuring that large scale operations, including factory controlled or owned feedlots could not continue to get six figure sums from the CAP. “It is unacceptable that farmers get tarnished and the reputation of the CAP undermined because of a tiny minority of cases getting huge payments. Instead, we need to deliver better payments to professional, family sized farms and in this regard, the reference to units in the 5-250 Ha bracket is welcome.”

Mr Kent emphasised that there needs to be greater focus on making sure that all CAP schemes were efficient at delivering money to farmers. “The current RDP scheme is too complex with schemes which leak a lot of funds to advisors and professionals, while delivering small sums to farmers who are meant to be the beneficiaries. This has to change.”

“On generational renewal, we need to recognise that this is a two way process and we should be thinking of a retirement scheme to complement better supports for young farmers.

ICSA also welcomes mention of the bio-economy in the communication.  However, the ability of farmers to produce renewable energy needs to be crystallised in EU and national policies on biofuels, solar energy and anaerobic digestion.”

Mr Kent said that the focus on risk management and income stabilisation tools could not be seen as a substitute for proper incomes. “We are open to persuasion but there is a concern that complex financial instruments could result in leakage of funds out of CAP into the insurance sector. Moreover, there is a worry that income stabilisation could lead to a perverse incentive to cut prices even more by processors/retailers in order to allow the income stabilisation tool to kick in.”

Concluding, Mr Kent said: “The eight key goals for the new CAP is ambitious and this is fine in principle; but we need to have reality in how much we ask farmers to do and we need to ensure that better farm incomes are the most important measure of sustainability. Without better farm incomes, we don’t have generational renewal, we don’t have investment in better technology and we can’t deliver on climate change objectives. Income must be central to any CAP strategy and in this regard, better regulation of the Food Chain involving auditing of margins at processing and retailing level will be essential to ensuring that CAP expenditure is not wasted.”

ENDS

ICSA ATTACKS EU NEGOTIATORS ON MERCOSUR IN BRUSSELS

23 NOVEMBER 2017

ICSA president Patrick Kent has lambasted the EU Commission for selling out the European beef sector in Mercosur talks at the worst possible time due to the uncertainty around markets as a result of Brexit. Speaking following a meeting with the EU chief Mercosur negotiator Sandra Gallina in Brussels yesterday, Mr Kent explained that Brexit put a huge question mark over the 270,000 tons of beef exported to the UK each year.

“It is monumental folly to allow 70,000 tons or more of extra South American beef into the EU at a time when we have no idea what the trading arrangements will be between the UK and Europe. Obviously, the importance of trade with the UK is especially significant to Ireland. However, while it may be Ireland’s problem today, it will be Europe’s problem tomorrow because any interference with free trade between Ireland and the UK could lead to some or all of our current 270,000 tons being displaced onto other EU markets.”

The ICSA president, along with ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch, were in attendance at a briefing for all sectors which are interested in Mercosur including car manufacturers, financial services and food and drink, which was hosted by Ms Gallina. While she accepted that the Irish beef sector was especially sensitive, she admitted that every effort was being made to do a deal.

“It is clear that the EU is willing to sacrifice the EU beef sector in return for potential gains for the car and financial services sector. ICSA is calling on the Taoiseach to make a further very strong intervention with the Commission president Jean Claude Juncker on behalf of the beef sector. We need to have a strong alliance with France against this deal. It is unacceptable that 100,000 livestock farmers in Ireland will pay a disproportionate price.”

ICSA also called into question the coherence of the EU on climate change when this deal will displace local beef with beef imported from thousands of miles away and which is causing destruction of rain forest in South America. “The emissions from transporting beef from the opposite side of the globe and the destruction of forests are ignored in this trade deal. Similarly, the proposals to import ethanol fly in the face of the EU position on reducing crop based ethanol in Europe. Worst of all is the fact that the EU seem to be content to ignore the appalling breaches of food safety standards that occurred in Brazil earlier this year. It is very hard to take the EU seriously when we see such double standards.”

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FURTHER CALLS TO RECONVENE TILLAGE FORUM

20 NOVEMBER 2017

Irish farming needs balance between the livestock and tillage sectors

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the tillage sector in Ireland is in dire straits and ICSA is calling for the tillage forum to be reconvened at the earliest possible date. “A second year of disastrous weather has exposed the frailty of the sector, but there are serious long term issues that need to be looked at urgently.”

“Irish farming needs balance between the livestock and tillage sectors. This is painfully evident at the moment with livestock farmers in the west and border counties crying out for straw and feed. It is not good enough that farmers are openly contemplating having to import straw, silage and hay from outside the island of Ireland. It is not good enough that we have a huge protein deficit in animal feeds not only in Ireland but in Europe.”

“The loss of our sugar beet sector is still a huge problem, and there is a national failure to take this seriously. Meanwhile, the malting sector is being ripped off by the booming drinks industry. Some of the players in the drinks sector like to market their “Irish image” yet the Irish content in the ingredients is minimal. Even where Irish product is used, the price paid does not compensate for the high standards required.”

“Minister Creed needs to put more focus on this critical sector because if it is not dealt with soon, there will be no tillage in the vast majority of the country and this will be a devastating loss not only to the cereals sector but to all livestock farmers as well.”

ENDS