10 JULY 2018

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has urged Minister Michael Creed to initiate further engagement with stakeholders as a matter of urgency on the introduction of mandatory EID tagging for all sheep. Mr Brooks made his comments following the Teagasc Sheep2018 event in Athenry on Saturday, where anger at the move was clearly evident. “ICSA and the farmers we represent are deeply concerned with the lack of real consultation on EID thus far. A deeper level of understanding of the issues on the ground is required by the Department at this time if we are to avoid unnecessary chaos should this rollout be attempted in October.”

Continuing Mr Brooks said, “Both logistical and financial obstacles must be overcome in order to facilitate a smooth transition over to electronic tagging. First at foremost, sheep farmers simply cannot carry the estimated €2.5 in annual costs. It is untenable than such a low income sector should be expected to take a financial hit of this magnitude. Sheep farmers are not the ones who will benefit from EID so why should be forced to pay for this service to others?”

“In addition, ICSA maintains its position that lambs going direct from the holding of birth to slaughter should be fully exempt as no additional traceability is accrued from this. Efficiency in factories might improve but there will be no benefit to the primary producer or to the end consumer. A consensus will need to be agreed between all stakeholders as to how best protect the industry for the future. A big part of protecting the industry is making sure we retain the primary producers, not force them out because they can’t make a living.”

Concluding Mr Brooks said, “As it is profitability is right down, lamb prices falling to a pittance with factories offering barely over €5.00 for spring lamb. These are the same factories that suggest there is scope to increase production by up to one million sheep annually yet prices are pulled at the slightest increase in supply. The bottom line is EID will do nothing that would result in sheep farmers achieving a better price.”



7 JULY 2018

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said it is very regrettable that the European Parliament agriculture committee is being forced to share competence on CAP reform with the environment committee. “We have seen how the environment committee made a mess of the role it got on biofuels under the Renewable Energy Directive negotiations.

Its position was informed more by ideology than by pragmatic environmental outcomes. A similar approach to CAP reform will undermine the likelihood of a coherent parliament position on CAP.

While we all accept that CAP has to deliver on environmental and climate change objectives, this will best be achieved by decisions which are informed by a real understanding of the challenges facing farm families. The whole raison d’être of the agriculture committee is being disregarded by this decision.

The decision was taken in Brussels by the European Parliament presidents’ committee. While the EU Parliament Ag committee still retains lead competence the decision means that the environment committee will be able to strongly interfere in this and will also be able to bring proposals on CAP direct to the European Parliament sitting in plenary.”

“This will surely lead to disarray around an already complex set of reform proposals,” concluded Mr Kent.



29 JUNE 2018

ICSA will host a suckler farm walk on the farm of Sean Hayden, Longfordpass, near Thurles in Co Tipperary on the evening of Wednesday, 4 July at 6pm.

Mr Hayden runs one of Ireland’s only herds of Stabiliser cattle, a breed he chose primarily for their docility and feed conversion efficiency. He maintains the switch from continental-crossbreeds has transformed his suckler enterprise in terms of profitability and labour input and is herd is now recognised widely for its strength.

Guest speaker on the evening will be Billy O’Kane, a previous winner of the Farmers Weekly, UK Beef Farmer of the Year. Mr O’Kane, who farms his herd of Stabilisers in Ballymena, Co Antrim, is also a great advocate of the breed and herd health in general. He, along with Sean, will discuss all aspects of their enterprises and will be on hand to answers any questions you may have.

Also speaking on the evening will be Michael Ryan, a nutritionist from Hennessy Feeds. Hennessy Feeds are a fully licensed feed manufacturer based in North Kilkenny who have been supplying the needs of the farming community since 1932. Using a wide range of raw materials from North Kilkenny and Tipperary they manufacture a full range of cereal based rations for cattle, dairy, sheep and horses using a combination of the latest technology and advanced knowledge in animal nutrition.

ICSA suckler chairman John Halley said, “There has been huge interest in the Stabiliser breed so the farm walk represents an ideal opportunity to share information and exchange ideas. We look forward to a very informative and enjoyable evening.”

Admission is free and all are welcome to attend.

For further enquiries, please phone ICSA 057 8662120.



22 June 2018

ICSA president Patrick Kent said he is very concerned at reports that the Environment Committee of the European Parliament is lobbying for increased control over the parliament’s position on CAP reform.   “While ICSA is in favour of CAP rewarding farmers who go the extra mile on biodiversity or climate change actions, it is essential that decisions are made by those who best understand the farming perspective.”

“In our view, what is the point of a European Parliament Agriculture Committee (COMAGRI) if it is not to analyse and improve EU Commission proposals?  This is not to say that the viewpoint of the Environment Committee (COMENVI) should be side-lined but on the other hand, this committee should not be the lead committee on CAP strategy or any element of the CAP reform dealing with payments to farmers.”

“The European Parliament Environment Committee took a very extreme position on biofuels which was detrimental to crop based biofuels grown by EU farmers.  This is just one example of how it is important that dossiers which are vital to farmers are handled by committees that specialise in and understand complex agricultural issues.”

ICSA understands that a decision on this is imminent in the coming week and the association has lobbied in Brussels to help keep CAP reform under the umbrella of the agriculture committee.



22 June 2018

 ICSA rural development chair Seamus Sherlock has called for a derogation to allow GLAS farmers with traditional hay meadow to mow hay over the coming days.   “While the traditional hay meadow is well meaning, it is unconscionable that for the sake of a few days, we would prevent farmers from making hay while the sun shines.”  The GLAS rule bans hay cutting until July 1st but the weather forecast for the rest of June is for brilliant sunshine.


“It is unacceptable that a once in ten year’s opportunity to make real quality hay would be missed only a few months after we imported hay due to the catastrophic fodder crisis.  We do not want farmers to risk losing GLAS money for a breach of regulation but we have to have some common sense applied.”


“We have already seen an extension secured for slurry spreading for nitrates derogation farmers to allow them until July 15 to have 50% of their slurry spread.  However, hay making is far more weather sensitive.  Moreover, farmers in GLAS are at the fore in actively farming in an environmentally friendly way and it would be very unfair that they are made to suffer looking at a hay meadow while the sun shines.”


31 MAY 2018

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has urged all road users to be on their guard over the Bank Holiday weekend and beyond as farming activities ratchet up. “It’s a busy time on farms and there are increased numbers of tractors and other farm machinery using the roads. Coinciding with the sunny spell and the bank holiday, patience as well as extreme caution must be exercised by everybody using the roads,” he said.

Mr Sherlock also implored farmers to pay close attention to farm safety. “Silage cutting and slurry spreading are in full swing and farms are a hive of activity. ICSA are asking farmers to think about safety at all times and never to take unnecessary risks where machinery and equipment are concerned. Slurry gas is also a silent killer and extremely dangerous. Slatted tank agitating points should not be left open for any longer than necessary. Farmers also need to be very careful to have proper PTO shafts in place on slurry and silage equipment. It only takes a split second lapse in concentration for accidents to happen, sometimes with tragic and fatal consequences.”

“After one of the longest winters in living memory, many farmers are still trying to cope with the financial ramifications and stress associated with dealing with nine months of challenging conditions. It will take more than a few sunny days for farmers who experienced the perfect storm to recover. However, safety must be a priority at all times; it’s a busy time but let’s make it a safe and happy time for everyone.”



30 MAY 2018

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has said farmer frustration is growing with dismal returns on the sale of wool. “Wool prices are so depressed that they no longer cover the cost of shearing. It just amounts to yet another cost that sheep farmers have to absorb.”

Mr Brooks said, “The fine weather has arrived and we are in the middle of the shearing season. However, with wool currently worthless, farmers will be facing a loss financially at the end of shearing season. With new costs associated with the Clean Livestock Policy for sheep and EID tagging being foisted on sheep farmers, this additional cost is something that just can’t be borne. Long term we may even face a welfare issue if the poor price trend for wool is not reversed.”

In light of this Mr Brooks added, “ICSA believes the time has come to address the current apathy towards wool in this country and right around Europe. The demise of the indigenous wool industry has resulted in wool remaining both underused and undervalued. Wool is an important natural resource yet the wool industry has been completely cast aside. However, there is huge potential to capitalise on a revitalised wool industry and this needs to be given serious consideration.”

“We need to see a concerted effort made to breathe life back into the industry. At a time when low carbon, low waste, biodegradability and renewability are the factors by which products and processes are judged, wool scores high on all. Efforts will have to focus on increasing awareness of this and remarketing wool as green and efficient commodity which is a viable alternative to fossil fuel based synthetic fibres. As sheep have to be shorn every year, wool is not only an important natural resource but also an abundant and renewable resource. Unfortunately, the competition from cheaper synthetic fibres means we constantly have to battle for a fair fleece price.”

“While wool products may be more expensive, there are emerging concerns around the high environmental and human rights costs associated with producing cheap synthetic clothing, most of which are made in developing countries. So, while wool may seem comparatively dear, if all the true costs of producing synthetic fibres were taken into account, it might not seem that expensive.”

“The uses for wool are many and varied and certainly not limited to just clothing. Bedding, furniture, soft furnishings, carpets and even fertiliser can all be produced from wool. It is also an excellent means of insulation and can insulate the home providing and retaining warmth, all while reducing energy costs. Yet, wool processing in Ireland is done only on a very small and niche scale.”

“We cannot afford to ignore an opportunity like this when such a valuable natural resource is available to us in vast quantities. Utilising our renewable natural resources must be made a priority and wool needs to feature strongly in that category going forward. Consumer momentum is certainly moving in that direction and ICSA would like to see the Irish government take a lead on this issue and also to push for a revitalisation of the industry at a European level.”



25 MAY 2018

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has called on meat factories to up the weight limit for payment on spring lamb. Mr Brooks said, “Currently, the weight limit is ridiculously low at 20.5kg when it really should be a minimum of 22kg. The spurious weight limits being imposed by processors also means that farmers are having to sell lambs too early.”

Continuing Mr Brooks said, “ICSA understands the butcher trade, which has traditionally underpinned the spring lamb trade, have been frustrated with lambs being marketed too light through the marts. Ideally, they are looking for carcass weights of 22+kg but with meat factories conditioning farmers into dubious lower weight limits, lambs at this optimum weight are scarce.”

“These overly harsh weight limits are also beginning to really hit hard now that we have seen factories imposing an unjustifiable €10 /head price drop this week. Factories have been far too quick to talk down the trade and indeed there are signals of a further unjustifiable price drop next week.”

Mr Brooks has also called on Minister Creed to pay out the balance owed to farmers through the Sheep Welfare Scheme as a matter of urgency. “Balancing payments have been promised but so far have failed to materialise for many. ICSA understands that delays of up until the end of June are possible which is totally unacceptable.”

“In addition, Minister Creed needs to make an allowance for culling non-productive ewes at this time. This would require flexibility within the scheme but it is absolutely necessary to prevent a crash in ewe prices later in the year. With fodder and cashflow problems plaguing farmers this year, having to hold on to unproductive ewes makes no sense at all. Farmers should be allowed to sell theses ewes now with the provision to get their numbers back up by mid-September and still remain compliant with the scheme and avoid penalties.”



22 MAY 2018

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said the static income figures for drystock farmers revealed in the Teagasc Farm Survey for 2017 demonstrates where CAP supports need to be directed. “The differential between the different farming systems is growing. Comparing like with like, the average per hectare income from dairying at €1,530 is 4.75 times higher than sheep farming at €322 and 4.2 times higher than cattle rearing at €364. Beef finishing systems are slightly better at €451 per hectare. So the post 2020 CAP is going to have to address this huge inequality and more supports – both Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 – must be directed at low income sectors.”

“We would question whether the ANC payment should be spread so thinly. Apart from the challenge of farming marginal land, the payment should also be more closely aligned with supporting the farmers with the lowest profitability.”

“Annual incomes averaging as low as €16,897 for sheep farmers, €16,651 for beef farmers and €12,680 for suckler farmers reveal the stark reality for the majority of our cattle and sheep farmers. It is notable that the direct payments on dairy farms are actually marginally higher than on cattle and sheep farms. However, the average dairy farm derives 23% of income from direct payments but the reliance on direct payments on beef farms is 93% of income. Worse still, on cattle rearing and sheep farms direct payments equate to 113% of income.”

“While everybody celebrates the opening of new markets for beef and lamb, the reality is hitting home that the primary producers of these products are not benefitting whatsoever. With exports hitting record levels year on year the maths is simple, beef and sheep farmers really are doing more and more for less and less. It’s obvious the margins from the food chain are skewed with beef and lamb producers faring the worst and this will have to be addressed.”

“However, the stand-out issue is that CAP payments will have to be re-jigged to target the low income sectors and this must be central to the CAP reform.”



18 MAY 2018

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has said it’s time for Minister Flanagan and the Department of Justice to consider amendments to the scheme introduced to help local communities install CCTV systems as a crime prevention measure. “Funding was allocated but the take up has been miniscule. We cannot allow the funding to go unused because of an overly arduous application process,” he said.

“Recent figures released by the Department of Justice indicate that only 4% of the €3m CCTV funding available has been spent. Reaching the halfway point in the scheme and with only €120,000 spent indicates a problem somewhere. An urgent review needs to be carried out at this stage to see how local communities can be further assisted with utilising the scheme. Of particular importance is clarification as to whether the Gardaí or local authorities are responsible managing the footage collected.”

Mr Sherlock was speaking at a ceremony In Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) to mark the official handing over of the Agricultural Crime in Ireland reports to the Luke Wadding library. The reports were compiled by Dr Kathleen Moore Walsh, a lecturer in Law and Criminology and Louise Walsh, a lecturer in Accounting and Finance, following the ICSA/WIT Agricultural Crime Survey. The study examined crimes that occur solely on farms or relating to farming activities.

The significant findings of each of the three reports are as follows:

Report 1 provided data on the incidence of agricultural crime in Ireland and found that two thirds of farmers have experienced crime relating to their farming enterprise.

Report 2 provided data on financial costs experienced by farmers arising from agricultural crime and indicated an average cost of €4,328 per respondent with experience of an incident(s) of agricultural crime. The report also found that many farmers were reluctant to report thefts due to the risk of rising insurance premiums. It found that on average farmers were willing to take a financial hit of €1,771.00 rather than report the incident.

Report 3 provided data on agricultural crime reporting to Gardaí and indicated that 45% of such crimes go unreported.

Concluding Mr Sherlock said, “The nature and scale of agriculture specific crime has been well and truly established with this survey and subsequent reports. 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.”