DAIRY CALF TRIAL MUST GIVE THE FULL UNVARNISHED TRUTH ON THE ECONOMICS OF THE SYSTEM

21 DECEMBER 2018

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has said that the pilot initiative by the Department for the rearing of dairy calves must give the full unvarnished truth on the economics of this enterprise. “It is a worthwhile initiative to see what are the real economic consequences on the beef sector posed by the dairy expansion model.  However, we need full accounting of the farmer’s own labour costs from beginning to end and a proper costing for their own land.

“ICSA believes that the real breakeven purchase price of a dairy bull calf should be about minus €165. This is a feedlots’ estimate for the animals that have Jersey or part Jersey genetics. ICSA believes that farmers are wasting their time trying to make any profit out of these calves. However, at present, some farmers are trying it and all they are doing is adding to the glut of beef. Perhaps this trial can finally put real figures on the enterprise.”

“We also have to get real and stop pretending that we can fix the problems of bad Jersey genetics by crossing back with beef breeds and using sexed semen. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Farmers need to understand that in 2017, almost 80% of cull cows from the dairy herd graded P. You cannot use this as a base for profitable beef production. Even where beef sires are used on dairy cows, almost 80% of the steers arising from this cross graded O or worse.”

“The problem is that while the New Zealand dairying model may work in terms of dairy farm expansion, nobody has paused to analyse the damaging impact on the Irish beef sector which is so important to our economy. New Zealand is not a major beef exporting country and it is highly questionable whether we should try to adopt their systems in their entirety while still wanting to continue as a beef exporting nation.”

“There has been too much focus on dairy expansion and too little consideration of the impact on our suckler and beef finishing sectors,” concluded Mr Graham.

ENDS

MEDIATION MUST BE MADE MANDATORY TO PROTECT FARM FAMILIES IN FINANCIAL DIFFICULTY

20 DECEMBER 2018

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has called on the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and the Central Bank to put mechanisms in place that would make mediation mandatory where a family has fallen into debt arrears. “All sides must be required to take a step back and engage with mediation services so that an assessment of what has gone wrong can be made and provisions to make it right can be put in place. It’s clear we need to restore confidence in our financial sector; borrowers with good intentions will not stand for being treated like commodities that can be bought and sold off on a whim to line the pockets of others,” said Mr Sherlock.

“The onus is on Minister Donohoe and the Central Bank to take stock of the situation and implement measures which would put an end to the draconian scenes of forced evictions. Mandatory mediation would mean that if a bank wanted to foreclose on a loan or sell it on to a vulture fund, they would firstly have to appoint an independent mediator to meet both the lender and borrower to work out a reasonable resolution. Restructuring the debt has got to be the main objective so this is where minds should be focused.”

“At present, banks and vulture funds appear to have no problem engaging experienced, expensive legal teams to secure eviction orders against farmers who rarely can afford any legal team and sometimes end up representing themselves. ICSA believes mediation would be both cheaper and more efficient.”

Concluding Mr Sherlock said, “We must remember that people can find themselves in difficult situations financially for a whole raft of reasons, many of which are outside their own control. Recently, a combination of inclement weather and poor prices have resulted in more and more farm families finding themselves in trouble. We cannot allow for a situation where these genuine families could find themselves facing the prospect of losing everything and being turfed out on the street. it’s time for a fresh approach to resolving bank debt and common sense must be used.”

ENDS

HEAVY HANDED TACTICS BY FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS MUST STOP

17 DECEMBER 2018

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has called on financial institutions and vulture funds to cease the draconian act of forced eviction. “The unfortunate scenes at a Roscommon farmyard over recent days were reminiscent of something from the turn of the century. Nobody wants to see families being dragged and beaten out of their homes by security personnel.”

Continuing Mr Sherlock said, “There has to be a better way. ICSA’s mantra has always been mediation not confrontation. Banks and vulture funds must sit down with families and explore every avenue to restructure the debt so that all parties can move forward with consensus and certainty. Dragging people out of their homes will not solve the problem only inflame an already highly charged situation.”

“ICSA is at the forefront of dealing with people in debt and have seen a sharp rise in the number of people seeking help with their efforts to restructure their debt issues with their lenders. Now however, our worst fear of a situation like in Roscommon has come true. Violence at farm gates is not the answer; meditation is the only show in town and ICSA are here to assist farm families who are making a genuine effort to honour their commitments,” concluded Mr Sherlock.

ENDS

ICSA CALLS FOR ALL AUCTIONEERS TO CEASE THE SALE OF DISTRESSED PROPERTY FOR VULTURE FUNDS

11 DECEMBER 2018

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has called on the Institute for Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV) to withdraw their services with regard to selling distressed property for financial institutions and vulture funds until all avenues to reach a reasonable solution have been explored. “Estate agents and auctioneers need to come out publicly and state that they will not sell family farms, businesses or homes for vulture funds while meaningful engagement is taking place,” said Mr Sherlock.

As a result of ICSA’s recent protest at the offices of online property trading platform BidX1, the site acceded to withdrawing contentious lots from its portfolio. However Mr Sherlock said, “The problem has merely moved in that other auction houses have taken up the mantle and continue to act on the instructions of vulture funds. This needs to stop. The last thing struggling families need is the threat of losing their home while they are trying to deal with their obligations to lenders.”

Continuing Mr Sherlock said, “In the aftermath of our protest at BidX1 a fresh wave of landowners have looked to ICSA for help and support. All feel aggrieved at the way their loans have been sold off by the same institutions who had made large profits off the back of farm investment. Many are faced with losing everything and the possibility of standoffs where families feel they have been mistreated is high. It’s time auctioneers & solicitors stand with the people and refuse to aid vultures in their quest for a quick profit. ICSA’s stance has always been mediation not confrontation. We will continue to seek outcomes that are palatable to all.”

ENDS

TEAGASC FIGURES SHOW HOW BAD THINGS ARE ON DRYSTOCK FARMS

04 DECEMBER 2018

ICSA president Patrick Kent today said that the figures from the Teagasc Annual Review and Outlook are a stark reminder of just how bad things are on cattle and sheep farms. “The shocking statistics are that net margin on suckler farms has gone from minus €3/ha in 2017 to minus €104/ha in 2018. Finishers have seen net margin fall from minus €10/ha in 2017 to minus €72/ha in 2018. Lowland sheep farmers saw a 16% drop in net margin but at least they had a positive net margin due to less exposure to feed costs.”

“The fact that prices are falling even though costs are up significantly with feed prices up 5% and feed use up 30% indicates that there is a serious structural problem which is too much production for the available markets.”

“The logical conclusion is that we must re-visit the strategy of asking farmers to run faster for less and less. Costs are increasing year on year which demonstrates that asking farmers to increase output is totally flawed. Instead we need to look at lower production, less inputs and better marketing of niche products like grass fed suckler beef. The current model is broken for cattle farmers and the forecast that 2019 will only see a minuscule recovery for cattle farmers is proof how we need a complete re-think.”

“The figures would be even worse if we accurately assessed the cost of the farmer’s own labour and owned land. The key question is who benefits from the increases in our agri food export figures and why is this celebrated by politicians and decision makers when farmers are getting less and less?”

ENDS

TIME TO EXAMINE INCREASED PAYMENTS FOR SHEEP SCHEME IN LIGHT OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT UNDERSPEND

28 NOVEMBER 2018

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has welcomed the advance payment of €15.1 million made to 18,600 sheep farmers under year two of the Sheep Welfare Scheme. Commenting, Mr Brooks said, “The advance payment rate has been set at 85% again this year which is good news. However, given the current underspend in the Rural Development Programme, ICSA believe the time is now right to explore enhancing the Sheep Welfare Scheme.”

Referring to the more than €300m in unspent funds under the TAMS II scheme Mr Brooks said, “ICSA would like to see the sheep sector get a fair share of that underspend and while the scheme is delivering in its current format there is scope to increase payment levels. This would see sheep farmers rewarded for undertaking additional tasks.”

Mr Brooks argues the precedent has been set for this under the Beef Data & Genomics Programme (BDGP) with the addition of the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme. “A similar bolt-on action or menu of actions under the Sheep Welfare Scheme would work just as well and deliver more benefits to the sheep sector as a whole.”

ENDS

ICSA PROTESTS THE FORCED SALE OF LANDS BY ONLINE PROPERTY TRADING PLATFORMS

26 NOVEMBER 2018

ICSA today (26 Nov) mounted a protest at the Dublin offices of online property trading platform BidX1 in opposition to the forced sale of lands. Speaking at the protest ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock said, “The farming community must stand together and send a clear message to vulture funds, and those who collaborate with them, that any attempt to sell distressed farmland will be met with community resistance.”

Continuing Mr Sherlock said, “Online property trading platforms don’t tell the full story. What you’re viewing is a product of the mistreatment of customers by banks initially and then by vulture funds. We have a situation whereby mainstream banks are continuing to sell off loans at an alarming rate, so we have an ever increasing number of families who find themselves having to deal with vulture funds with no choice in the matter.”

“We are encouraged by the statement from BidX1 that they have, for the time being, removed contentious lots from their site in advance to today’s protest. However, for that move to be viewed as anything more than a temporary knee jerk reaction, it needs to become a permanent policy.”

“We know that farms have been and will continue to be included in portfolio sales of loans. We also know that these loans are usually secured by land deeds exceeding the value of the loan, making the prospect of a quick sale more attractive than negotiating a reasonable solution with borrowers.”

“We want BidX1, and all other such platforms, to be much more careful about putting land up for sale where it’s still possible for a compromise to be found and a deal concluded. At ICSA we want to see more mediation and less confrontation. We believe that a reasonable negotiated settlement should always be considered the best option for everyone involved. We will continue to press for more regulation of the processes by which these loans are sold off in the first place and managed thereafter.”

Concluding, Mr Sherlock said “It’s not easy dealing with new loan masters whose only interest is to profit from your distress but together we can make a difference and stand our ground. ICSA strongly believes in supporting family farms and will endeavour to assist anyone facing difficulties.”

ENDS

CORK WEST ICSA TO HOST FARMERS MEETING IN BANTRY

26 NOVEMBER 2018

A farmers meeting hosted by Cork West ICSA will take place on Thursday 29 November, in the Westlodge Hotel, Bantry, Co Cork. The event will commence at 8.00 pm.

Guest speakers on the night will be:

Donal Murphy, Drinagh Co-Op

Animal Nutrition

Finbar O’Shea, Bantry Credit Union

Local Farm Finance

Dermot Kelleher, ICSA Munster VP

The Future of the Suckler & Beef Herd

Eddie Punch, ICSA General Secretary

CAP Reform

All farmers are invited to attend.

For further information, please contact ICSA Cork West chairman Dermot Kelleher on 087-6799178.

ENDS

OFFALY ICSA TO HOST FARMERS MEETING FOCUSING ON CLIMATE CHANGE & RENEWABLE ENERGY

26 NOVEMBER 2018

A farmers meeting hosted by Offaly ICSA will take place tomorrow, Tuesday 27 November, in Shinrone Community Centre, The Green, Shinrone, Co Offaly. The event will commence at 8.00 pm.

Guest speakers on the night will be:

Clifford Guest, Lecturer at Limerick Institute of Technology

Irish Agriculture – Adapting to Climate Change

Alan Jackson, Tipperary Energy Agency

Domestic & Farm Scale Solar Panels – A Realistic Option?

Eddie Punch, ICSA General Secretary

CAP Reform

All farmers are invited to attend.

For further information, please contact ICSA Offaly chairman William Reid on 086 8174756.

ENDS

ICSA TO PROCEED WITH PROTEST AT ONLINE PROPERTY PLATFORM BIDX1 ON MONDAY

23 NOVEMBER 2018

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has said ICSA’s protest at the offices of BidX1 will go ahead as planned.

Commenting, Mr Sherlock said, “Families right around the country have been forced into a position whereby their loans have been sold off to vulture funds without any forewarning. We have an obligation to ensure that those who find themselves caught in the grip of vulture funds are afforded every opportunity to come to a reasonable negotiated settlement. However, the prospect of a quick sale is often more attractive than negotiating such a reasonable negotiated settlement. ICSA wants to send a clear message that the rights of homeowners and landowners must not be trampled upon.”

The protest will take place Monday (26 November) from 12 midday at the BidX1 offices at Waterloo Exchange, Waterloo Road, Dublin 4.

ENDS