TB STRATEGY CAN ONLY WORK ON BASIS OF FAIR PLAY FOR ALL FARMERS

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18 DECEMBER 2020

ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chair Hugh Farrell has said that the TB strategy won’t succeed unless it is on the basis of mutual co-operation and fair play for all farmers. “ICSA has engaged with the TB Forum from the start on the basis that we are all in this together. A minority of farmers cannot be sacrificed and that’s why ICSA is insisting on fair compensation in all cases. There are a wide range of representatives on the TB Forum but the key stakeholders are farmers and this must never be forgotten.”

“While there is agreement on the need to eradicate TB, ICSA continues to insist that the programme must be funded adequately and it will be up to the Minister to step up to the plate on this. ICSA believes that the setting up of implementation groups can help but we will not accept farmer representative exclusion from the groups. Farm organisations can bring expert insights to these and it will be vital that their deliberations are informed by practical and real understanding of the issues.”

“ICSA is insisting that all reactors are removed within seven days and that the first herd test following a breakdown can take place sixty days after the reactor is discovered rather than removed because the farmer has no control over this. We will also be insisting that the issues with wildlife are dealt with in a comprehensive manner and it is not good enough to turn a blind eye to the role of deer.”

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DERMOT KELLEHER ELECTED PRESIDENT OF ICSA

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17 DECEMBER 2020

Dermot Kelleher has been elected ICSA National President following a postal ballot of the association’s National Executive members. Following the announcement, Mr Kelleher said he was looking forward to the challenge of dealing with big issues like Brexit, CAP reform and the price of product. “I will be working night and day to make sure that cattle, sheep and tillage farmers get the best possible share of payments because they are, by far, the most dependent on them.”

Hailing from Inchigeela in West Cork where he runs a suckler enterprise, Mr Kelleher currently holds the position of ICSA vice president for Munster. He will take up his position as ICSA president at the association’s AGM in January.

Continuing Mr Kelleher said, “Brexit is on a knife edge and I will be fighting very hard to make sure that the cattle sector in particular gets fully compensated for the potentially horrendous losses. Even if there is a Brexit deal, the additional hold-ups in transport and extra red tape will add cost, and farmers must be compensated for this.”

“I am convinced that ICSA is the only organisation that has a consistent record in standing up for the cattle and sheep sectors. Other organisations come and go but ICSA has the contacts in Europe and the experience of dealing with government here. I want to unite all cattle, sheep and tillage farmers behind one strong organisation. There has been far too much emphasis on dairy expansion, and I want to balance the equation.”

“I am demanding a massive increase in the payment under agri-environment schemes. We want to see the budget for GLAS trebled in a new and much more ambitious agri-environment scheme that properly rewards those who go further for the environment. We cannot expect farmers to fund climate change and biodiversity challenges if they are losing money.”

“I will be fighting very hard to finish the job ICSA started when we looked for a regulator to oversee the beef food chain. The Food Ombudsman is a start but the office must be given the powers to investigate exactly what is going on in the food chain.”

“I intend to work very hard and I am determined to build ICSA so that we can achieve even more on behalf of all farmers in the cattle, sheep and tillage sectors.”

In a close vote, Mr Kelleher narrowly defeated ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara.

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ICSA CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO WHY FACTORY PRICES ARE ALL EQUALLY LOW BUT MARTS TELL A DIFFERENT STORY

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17 DECEMBER 2020

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has demanded that there should be an investigation into why factory prices are all equally low even though some factories are able to pay much more for cattle at marts. Mr Graham was addressing today’s (Thursday 17th) Beef Taskforce meeting.

“Some factories have markets which justify higher returns and this is evidenced by the prices paid at marts by factory agents. Yet prices quoted by factories for direct sales are all uniformly similar. This strongly suggests that there is no free competition in terms of factory prices.”

Mr Graham insisted that this was a matter for the Beef Taskforce to bring to the attention of the CCPC (Competition and Consumer Protection Commissioner). He repeatedly asked the meat industry representatives for a response but they refused.

“It is abundantly clear that some factories are in a position to pay 30-40c/kg more based on current demand for beef. We have seen UK price rocket ahead of Irish price this year and the evidence is that some factories are actively paying much more at mart rings than the quoted prices.”

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ICSA EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED WITH REPORT ON MARKET REQUIREMENTS FOR BEEF

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17 DECEMBER 2020

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said that he is extremely disappointed with the Grant Thornton report on Market and Customer Requirements of Irish Beef, which was discussed at today’s Beef Taskforce (Thursday 17 Dec). “The report does not provide any evidence of independent measurement of consumer preferences in any market. Instead, we are asked to believe a limited overview of interviews with stakeholders, predominantly in the UK, who are scrambling to find varied dubious justifications for maintaining the 30 months and 4 residencies penalties.”

“Whereas the report accepts that the genesis of the 30-month rule comes from a panic from twenty years ago about BSE, which turned out to be totally blown out of proportion, it now seems that some retailers are trying to justify the 30-month on the basis of an evolving perception within the market that finishing cattle earlier is supportive of the green agenda without the need to reduce the volume of cattle being slaughtered.”

This comment in the report is not backed up with any published research nor is there any evidence that consumers believe this. You could just as easily argue that grass-fed, slower-finished cattle that do not require substantial imports of grain from outside the EU are better for the environment.

“In any event, Irish farmers are not the ones who import beef from South America.”

Mr Phelan told the Beef Taskforce that he was astonished that the report suggests that other European markets are exhibiting more satisfactory performance in achieving desired animal welfare performance. “Who made this allegation and what is the evidence for it?”

Mr Phelan told the Taskforce that Irish agriculture was built around movements. “Suckler and dairy farmers are not generally in a position to finish beef cattle so that’s just not possible. Movements are part of our system and we need to explain that this is not a welfare issue.”

ICSA challenged the meat processors to explain why factory prices have been so poor in the second half of this year compared to the price fat cattle are making in the marts. “Our price has fallen well behind the UK price and it does not reflect the big increase in demand at retail level for beef. Even allowing for catering market disruption, the gap between UK and Irish farmer price has expanded substantially.”

ICSA asked for an update on when the Food Ombudsman would be set up. The Department said that the extra remit for the Ombudsman which is not provided for in the EU Unfair Trading Practices directive would require primary legislation which was being progressed.

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NEW ICSA PRESIDENT TO BE ELECTED THIS EVENING

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17 DECEMBER 2020

The next president of ICSA will be revealed later today following weeks of online hustings.  Two candidates are in the fray, Dermot Kelleher from Cork and Sean McNamara from Westmeath. Owing to Covid the normal ICSA election process has been changed and the decision will be based on a postal ballot of ICSA National Executive members.

It is expected that the results will be announced at a Zoom meeting of the ICSA national executive at about 7pm.  Both candidates have a long track record in ICSA.  Mr McNamara is the current ICSA sheep chairman and Mr Kelleher is the current ICSA Munster Vice president.

The winner will take office at the ICSA AGM in January where current president Edmond Phelan will step down after a hectic term of office marked by beef protests, the establishment of the Beef Taskforce, the agreement of an EU budget, CAP reform deliberations and of course, the disruption caused by Covid and Brexit.

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ICSA TO MEET DEPARTMENT TO SEEK REVIEW OF 5% RULE ON BEAM SCHEME

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14 DECEMBER 2020

ICSA is to meet the Department of Agriculture to seek a review of the 5% stocking rate reduction requirement under the BEAM scheme.

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has said that it is increasingly obvious that the 5% reduction requirement for the BEAM scheme is a bureaucratic nightmare for farmers and advisors. “I am concerned that a large majority of farmers will not achieve the unworkable requirement and this will lead to the appalling vista of the bulk of the money allocated being recouped.”

“The BEAM scheme was designed to compensate farmers for serious losses incurred through no fault of their own because of Brexit disruption to markets. ICSA is calling for a complete review of this requirement.  We believe the 5% should be shelved because it has not been thought through and it is unworkable.”

“Although the Department has put some information up on the Agfood website, there are widespread reports of farmer and advisor confusion on how to ensure that farmers qualify.  A scheme that gives rise to such confusion is not satisfactory.”

“It is proving very difficult for farmers to implement this requirement particularly because of the immense disruption caused by Covid and Brexit uncertainty.  I am aware of farmers who do not want to push cattle to finish them in January or February because of uncertainty around markets in early 2021 arising from Brexit unknowns.  So it is not fair to retain this rule in a year where such uncertainty has prevailed and where marts have been closed or restricted in ways that were not foreseen when this scheme was drawn up.”

ICSA wants the 5% rule reviewed to avoid many farmers facing a clawback of badly needed funds.  ICSA is also suggesting that Teagasc undertake a quick survey of its clients to determine what proportion are unable to determine where they stand and what proportion of applicants believe they are facing a clawback.

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COMPROMISE NEEDED ON BOTH SIDES TO GET BREXIT DEAL

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14 DECEMBER 2020

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has urged the Taoiseach to push for compromise on both sides to get a Brexit deal over the line.  “There is too much at stake to allow statecraft to fail.  Although there are a lot of misgivings about the good faith of the British government wanting to do a trade deal, there is also a need to see where the EU can manoeuvre.  The cost of no deal is just too appalling, particularly for Ireland and especially the beef sector.”

“We welcome the focus on a level playing field by the EU side.  It is notable that the European focus has been on keeping that playing field level not just now but into the future.  However, the EU has always found ways to strike a deal, most notably the Mercosur deal, even though doubts persist about the enforceability of fair play in Brazil.   Ultimately, pragmatism is needed, and that will require give and take from both sides.”

“EU leaders have every right to be exasperated by the British approach to the process. It is understandable that the gunboat approach to diplomacy is not tolerated by the EU.  However, all that needs to be put aside at this critical hour.  We need a deal now and the Irish government must emphasise that through private channels with EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.”

“ICSA is meeting the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and the Marine tomorrow (Tuesday 15th) on Brexit.”

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ICSA WELCOMES EU SUMMIT DECISION TO FINALLY APPROVE BUDGET

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11 DECEMBER 2020

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has welcomed the EU Summit decision to finally approve the EU budget for the next seven years after a logjam caused by disagreement from Poland and Hungary. “The decision to sanction the €1,074 billion multiannual financial framework (MFF) along with the Covid stimulus package, otherwise known as Next Generation EU (NGEU) is vital. The NGEU adds €750 billion to the MFF and every cent will be needed at a time of profound economic challenge.”

“From a farming perspective, it clears the way to move on with delivery of the next CAP. The logjam was beginning to cause a lot of concern about whether CAP funding and additional funds for Covid and Brexit could actually be delivered. ICSA welcomes the pragmatic decision of the EU Summit which was essential at a time of potential chaos due to the Brexit impasse.”

“ICSA will be arguing very strongly that CAP funds must be directed to the greatest extent to low income cattle, sheep and tillage farmers who are more than 100% dependent on direct payments for their income. It is now time to acknowledge that CAP funds must be balanced in favour of less intensive farmers given that this is the kernel of the so-called green architecture which underpins CAP funding for the next seven years.”

“It would be a complete contradiction in terms if the CAP programme is tweaked to allow significant payments to be diverted in a way which incentivises even more highly intensive farming systems. Further expansion in dairying should be funded by the marketplace. At the moment, Ireland’s milk price compares poorly with our western EU neighbours and this is not a problem that should be resolved by diverting more CAP funds from low income cattle and sheep farmers to expanding dairy farmers.”

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ICSA PRESIDENT ALARMED AT BREXIT IMPASSE

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10 DECEMBER 2020

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said he is alarmed at the current impasse on Brexit but remains hopeful that common sense will eventually prevail. Reacting to the statement by EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in which she said that the position of the EU and UK remain far apart, Mr Phelan said that Ireland is on the precipice of disaster but so is the rest of the EU and the UK. “It would be a complete failure of diplomacy and statecraft to allow no deal at this point.”

“The beef sector cannot endure another calamity just at a point when there has been some improvement in the outlook. The €5 billion Brexit EU fund will be totally inadequate if there is no deal.  Ireland cannot find another market for 270,000 tons of beef in the near future and the consequences will be catastrophic not just for farmers but for all of rural Ireland.”

“It would be particularly outrageous given that progress has been made on a lot of issues. Obviously the issue of a level playing field on product standards is tricky but surely both sides are committed to quality food?”

“The Taoiseach must use every opportunity at the EU summit today and tomorrow to emphasise the disaster facing us all. It is also time for him to make it clear that the €5 billion EU Brexit fund will have to be increased by multiples if no deal is done.”

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MART PRICES AHEAD OF FACTORIES

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4 DECEMBER 2020

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has said that mart price for heavy beef cattle is well ahead of factory prices at the moment. “Farmers should look very carefully at what prices are being paid in marts for heavy, finished cattle. Factory agents are actively chasing fat cattle which along with Northern Ireland buyers is leading to much better prices in marts. Selling fat cattle in the marts now is a no-brainer, particularly for cattle that don’t qualify for all bonuses on the grid.”

Mr Graham said that in many cases, prices at marts were the equivalent of €4/kg and upwards. There are numerous clear examples of farmers being €100-150/ head better off selling in marts. For most of 2020, farmers saw a clear advantage in selling heavy suckler cows in marts rather than the factory. But the advantage of selling in the mart is now covering heifers and steers as well.

“In some scenarios, where all bonuses and benefits from the grid are achieved the mart does not have significant advantage. However, farmers are frequently surprised at their cattle grading lower than expected and then ending up with a disappointing price. At least in a mart, you can change your mind.”

“The mart price demonstrates that factories could pay a good bit more at the moment. We have seen the differential between Irish and British steer price increase to over 60c/kg in the second half of 2020 and prices are continuing to rise in the UK, on the back of continued strong demand for beef. GB price is now Stg£0.48/kg higher than a year ago and is actually at its highest level since 2014 in sterling terms. Beef supplies for last week are down 2,500 head on this time last year in Britain. All of these factors suggest that the current factory price is well below what it should be, and this reflected in the booming mart trade.”

“I am strongly advising all beef finishers who are free to trade to sell some stock in marts for comparison purposes. I am quite confident that they will not be disappointed.”

Examples of a recent mart: The following prices were recorded by Edmund Graham at a recent mart. Estimated kill outs (ko) are made by Edmund Graham.

Hereford bullock, grade o= / ko 52%

  • 750kg @ €1585

carcass 390kg = €4.06/kg

  • Charolais bullock, grade R- / ko 55%

775kg @ €1705

Carcass 426kg = €4.00

  • Limousin bullock grade R+ / ko 55%

810kg @ €1865

Carcass 445kg = €4.19

  • Limousin bullock, grade U= / ko 60%

780kg @ €1920

carcass 468kg = €4.10

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