17 JULY 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said the €100m fund available through the Beef Exceptional Aid Measures (BEAM) must be directed solely at the lowest farm income sectors. Mr Phelan said, “This fund must be for those whose primary farm enterprise is dependent on the state of the beef trade and who have suffered the greatest hardship from Brexit related price pressures. The expectation from the outset was that finishers and suckler farmers would be the beneficiaries.”

“Farm income figures for 2018 show that suckler farmers and beef finishers are on their knees. Average family farm income on suckler farms dipped to an estimated €8,318 in 2018 – a reduction of 22% on 2017, with beef finishers earning approximately €14,408, down 11% on the 2017. This is where the money must be directed. It is unconscionable to think that money would be diverted from these farmers to dairy farmers who despite having a relatively bad year themselves, still managed earnings of €61,273 in 2018. It defies logic for anyone to lobby for their inclusion in this particular exceptional aid measure.”

“The difference in annual incomes is clear for all to see and points directly at where the funds should go. There was a dairy rescue package a few years ago and there was no question of some of that money going to beef finishers or suckler farmers.”

“ICSA has many full-time finishers who feel very frustrated that the scheme is limited to 100 animals. These farmers who are fully dependent on their beef farming enterprise have seen losses of over €100/head on hundreds of animals.  Some of these farmers have lost in excess of €30,000 on this year’s trading and the limit of €10,000 will not go anywhere near meeting their losses. ICSA wants the limit increased to 200 animals which would be of massive benefit to full-time beef farmers and will benefit other farmers by keeping these farmers in business at the mart ringsides.”



11 JULY 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has broadly welcomed details on the distribution of the €100 million Beef Brexit aid package following a consultation meeting this morning with Minister Creed and his officials. The scheme is to be called Beef Exceptional Aid Measures – BEAM. Speaking after the meeting Mr Phelan said, “ICSA welcomes the general outline to pay finishers €100/ head and a payment for all suckler cows which calved in 2018.” However, Mr Phelan argued strongly against an upper limit of 100 head for finishers.

“ICSA wants to see an upper limit of 200 head because full time winter finishers have suffered massive losses and it is vital that they are back at the ring for the sake of all suckler and store producers.”

“ICSA argued that it is possible to increase the upper limit to 200 head without affecting the rate of €100/ head simply by explicitly excluding factory feedlots. The reality also is that not every single farmer will apply so this could be done while maintaining the commitment to pay the target rates to finishers and sucklers.”

“ICSA also welcomes the commitment to pay on cull cows finished in a beef herd. The cull suckler cow is a significant part of a suckler income. We have insisted that suckler cows, as well as other fat cattle, sold in a mart and slaughtered shortly afterwards would result in a payment to the farmer who sold in the mart. ICSA also recognises that farmers who specialise in fattening cows are important to the sector and that they have been hit by bad prices.”

ICSA expressed concern around the conditionality on the scheme, specifically the requirements on being a member of a QAS scheme or Agri-environment scheme, as well as the 5% stocking rate reduction for the year 2020-2021.

“Two-thirds of suckler farmers are not quality assured, although some of them will be in BDGP, GLAS or the organic scheme. While it is still possible for them to apply for the BQAS, we are concerned that this will act as a barrier.”

“On the stocking rate the Minister argued that most farmers could qualify by selling animals a month earlier but ICSA believes that this will be hard to achieve in practice and it could have unintended consequences for the trade.”

The following eligibility criteria was outlined by Department of Agriculture;

  • Dairy farmers are excluded from the scheme.
  • All finished animals over 12 months, to include heifers, steers, bulls and cull cows are eligible.
  • A payment of €100/hd for finished cattle is envisaged to a maximum of 100 head of cattle.
  • For sucklers, every cow that calved in 2018 will be eligible for a payment of €40/hd to a maximum of 40 cows.

In addition, conditionality measures will apply.

  • A 5% reduction in stocking rate in 2021 compared to 2019. The reference period for this will run from July 2018 to June 2019 (inclusive) to be compared with July 2020 to June 2021 (inclusive).
  • At the time of application, or before payment, those wishing to avail of the aid must be enrolled in an agri-environment scheme (e.g. GLAS/BDPG/Organic Scheme etc.) or be Bord Bia quality assured.



10 JULY 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has again slammed the monumental folly of allowing vast quantities of extra South American beef into the EU at a time when we have no idea what post-Brexit trading arrangements will be between the UK and Europe and when climate mitigation measures are being prioritised in both domestic and EU agendas. “Mercosur is quite simply, the wrong deal at the wrong time,” he said.

Mr Phelan will today attend a protest in Dublin in a show of solidarity with all those who oppose the deal.

Speaking ahead of the protest Mr Phelan said, “Beef farmers throughout the country are right to be aggrieved at this sell-out and the hypocrisy associated with it. The deal is especially galling in the context of a saturated beef market in Europe, coupled with declining consumption. The deal also completely undermines the EU’s moral authority to lead on climate change by displacing local beef with beef imported from thousands of miles away and which is causing destruction of rainforest while sustainable EU beef systems will be made completely unviable.”

“Our message here today is clear; we will not stand by while hard-working family run Irish beef farms are sacrificed in this manner.”



9 JULY 2019

ICSA sheep chairman Sean McNamara said he was hopeful that lamb price might stabilise following the association’s recent talks with Kepak. However, he reiterated that there is no future for sheep farming at current prices. He said that all sheep meat processors needed to find ways of getting farmers a better share of the cake. “Prices below €5/kg simply do not add up for any sheep farmer. No young farmer will be attracted into sheep farming at this year’s price level.”

“The really frustrating thing is that with lambs being scarce in Australia and New Zealand, sheep farmers down under are experiencing something of a boom on price. This explains why New Zealand is not even filling its quota for the EU because demand is going so well in Asian markets.”

“In fact one processor in New Zealand is offering a contract for lambs in August at a price of NZ$9/kg (€5.31/kg). While there may be some demand issues in Europe, we simply do not accept that current prices represent a fair share out of the returns from the market place. This, along with beef price frustrations, highlights the need for compulsory EU auditing of who gets what from the food chain. ICSA has been making the case for an EU regulator or watchdog to examine the books of processors and retailers and bring transparency into the food chain.”

“ICSA opposes unduly severe weight limits on lamb. There are ample outlets for lambs of 22kg. If all lambs were this weight there might be some argument but the reality is that farmers are getting hammered, particularly in the case of good conformation lambs, where very low weight limits are inappropriate.”



8 JULY 2018

ICSA Animal Health and Welfare chair Hugh Farrell has condemned the practice of destroying livestock on-farm following a TB outbreak. “This primarily concerns the destruction by shooting of calves in farmyards. While older cattle are removed to the factory, the calves that remain are destroyed on-site by a knackery service, a practice which can be extremely distressing for farmers. ICSA has received several complaints about this and we are asking the Department of Agriculture to seriously reconsider their protocols regarding this issue,” he said.

Continuing Mr Farrell said, “Once these animals have been commandeered by the Department the onus should be on the department to remove them from the farm and dispose of them in an appropriate manner. The farmer should be fully compensated for the calf under the on-farm market valuation system and knackery charges should be borne by the Department.”



1 JULY 2019

The ICSA protest outside Kepak Athleague has been called off following discussions with Kepak management. ICSA sheep chairman Sean McNamara who led the delegation said that there had been a robust exchange of views and that further talks were planned for Thursday.

“Both sides agreed that current prices were wholly unsatisfactory from a farmer’s perspective. ICSA is insisting that the continuous severe cuts on sheep price cannot continue and that sheep farmers cannot be expected to lose money. We also had a strong exchange of views on weight limits which at 20.5kg are totally unreasonable at this time of year.”

“The protest is off now pending talks on Thursday.” However, Mr McNamara warned that if prices continue to fall there are no guarantees that there won’t be further protests at various meat plants in the coming weeks.



01 JULY 19                                                                                                                                                                           

The ICSA sheep price protest outside Kepak Athleague is continuing today (Monday). ICSA sheep chairman Sean McNamara says that a stand has to be taken against excessive price cuts, with as little as €4.80/kg base price being offered.

“Athleague is leading the push to drive down prices but we are standing firm for a better price. Some factories are paying up to €5.30 including bonus. However, this action is aimed at ensuring we put a floor under prices which will benefit farmers not just this week but for the rest of the year. If factories succeed in driving price too low now, it sets the tone for the rest of the year.”

“Farmers are very angry at the way in which lambs are being imported from Northern Ireland to undermine the price for local lambs. This is not good enough. Factories have built empires on the work of Irish suppliers and they need to show some loyalty rather than squeezing farmers at every opportunity.”

The protest started on Sunday afternoon and protestors kept vigil outside the plant throughout Sunday night. “We don’t want to be here, but excess price cuts are killing the viability of sheep farmers and ICSA is fighting for the future of sheep farming.”



28 JUNE 2019

Newly elected ICSA president Edmond Phelan has slammed the EU/ Mercosur trade deal as “an absolute disgrace, which completely undermines the EU’s moral authority to lead on climate change.”

“Let there be no doubt: a calculated decision has been made by European leaders to increase car sales, mainly petrol and diesel, at the price of sacrificing the EU beef farmer. The Irish beef sector, with 90% exported to EU markets, will take the full brunt of this outrageous decision.”

“It beggars belief that more rain forest will be cut down to facilitate Brazilian beef expansion while sustainable EU beef systems will be made completely unviable. At a time when Brexit is already damaging the Irish beef sector, this deal is a complete betrayal of Irish cattle farmers.”

What is the point of farmers planting trees here when trees are being cut down in South American and massive quantities of fuel will be burnt to ship cheap, lower standard Brazilian beef to a market which is already fully supplied?

“ICSA will be demanding that the Oireachtas is given its say on this and that every single Irish politician stands up for our interests. This deal has nothing in it for Ireland. Consumers will see less and less Irish beef as we abandon any pretence that local, sustainable food matters and we become more and more dependent on South America. It’s not just beef; the deal also will see more chicken from South America. The Government must stand up for Irish farmers; there is no room for equivocation on this.”



27 JUNE 2019

Edmond Phelan has been elected ICSA National President at a meeting of the association’s National Executive in Portlaoise tonight. Following the vote Mr Phelan said he intends to act on the major challenges facing the sector without delay. “We don’t have a moment to spare when it comes to preventing a disastrous Mercosur trade deal for Irish beef farmers or when it comes to delivering on the €100m EU beef fund,” he said.

Hailing from Fenor, Co Waterford, where he runs a beef enterprise, Mr Phelan is a former beef chair of ICSA. He will take up his position as ICSA president immediately.

Continuing Mr Phelan said, “ICSA is vehemently opposed to any Mercosur deal that includes a tariff rate quota for beef. Not only would it be economically devastating for Irish beef farmers, but it is also farcical that the EU should expect Irish farmers to adopt a broad array of climate change measures while they ignore the massive climate change and environmental downsides of importing vast quantities of beef from South America. The Oireachtas Committee for Agriculture has this week backed that position. ICSA will now be pushing for this backing to translate into the deal being voted down when it comes before the Dáil.”

“Of equal importance is getting the €100m EU beef fund to the most deserving farmers in short order. Farmers in the cattle sector have endured a really difficult period and it is urgent that the money is paid to those farmers without them having to jump through any more hoops. For this reason, ICSA will continue to oppose any conditionality attached to accessing this fund.”

“We also need to turn the debate on climate change towards policies which recognise the positive contribution of farmers in terms of more renewables and recognising increased efficiencies in minimising emissions and proper accounting of sequestration. While the Climate Action Plan will be very challenging for the agriculture sector, farmers will always respond to the right incentives.”

In a close vote tonight, Mr Phelan narrowly defeated ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chair Hugh Farrell and the association’s Vice President for Munster Dermot Kelleher.

Mr Phelan described it as an honour to have been elected to lead the association and said he was 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. It’s time to get on with the job now.” he said.



26 JUNE 2019

ICSA will hold its presidential election tomorrow evening, 27 June, at the Midlands Park Hotel in Portlaoise, Co Laois. Three candidates, current ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chair Hugh Farrell, ICSA Vice president for Munster Dermot Kelleher and former beef chair Edmond Phelan will contest the vote, the outcome of which will decide who will lead the association through to 2021.

Proceedings on the night will begin at 7.30pm. Each candidate will make a presentation to the association’s National Executive which will be followed by a panel discussion and 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.