The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has a huge membership base in the beef sector, and works hard to represent beef farmers and their interests both in Ireland and at EU level.
ICSA has an important seat at the Beef Taskforce where we represent the interests of beef and suckler farmers with a focus on full transparency in the food chain. ICSA wants to ensure that our demand for a regulator for the beef food chain is delivered. ICSA first proposed this in 2014 and then brought it to Europe when we outlined the injustices of the food chain to Commissioner Hogan who undertook to do something about unfair trading practices. It is now time to turn this vision into reality and establish a regulator with real power to audit and investigate what goes on in the food chain. Robust and effective regulation is long overdue a regulator to permanently oversee the beef chain is a must.
ICSA continues to challenge processors regarding key issues such as weight and age restrictions as well as the movement of cattle. On your behalf ICSA challenges all deductions from your factory cheque, be it penalties, insurance, post-mortem contingency charge or levies. Remember, ICSA takes no levies.
ICSA is demanding protection of our valuable live exports and that Government would increase their efforts to secure new markets for live exports.
ICSA is committed to defending the Irish beef industry from the looming threats of international trade deals. ICSA has made it clear in Brussels that the Irish beef sector is very vulnerable. Farmers cannot be expected to compete with lower standard produce from outside the EU flooding the market. This is particularly true of vast quantities of South American beef entering the EU on the back of trade deals such as Mercosur.
Hailing from Ballyleck in Co Monaghan, Edmund Graham focuses primarily on his weanling to beef and stores to beef enterprises.
“In ICSA we are adamant that the Beef Taskforce must deliver real results for farmers and not just end up as a talking shop. The last thing that we want to see is farmers getting angry again which is exactly what will happen if this Taskforce ends up being like all previous efforts to address the dysfunctional relationship between farmers and factories. Real transparency around who makes what along the food chain must be delivered, and excess profiteering on the part of processors and retailers must be exposed.”
The ICSA is committed to representing the interests of Irish sheep farmers in the strongest possible way at home and abroad. For many years, the national flock was in decline; we have seen recently that the fall has stopped. ICSA is now concerned that the sector be stabilised and made attractive to young, energetic farmers.
ICSA believes that Ireland needs to be careful that any increase in sheep production is in response to an increased demand on UK and European markets. We also want to see an end to the severe upper weight limits being imposed by the meat factories, which seriously erode sheep farmers’ profits.
ICSA has called on Minister Calleary to establish a Sheep Taskforce with a remit to tackle all ongoing issues within the industry. Sheep exports were worth €294m in 2019, yet the sector is not receiving the attention it deserves and sheep farmers are fed up of being a political afterthought. ICSA believes the need for a dedicated Sheep Taskforce is clear; the sector must be properly acknowledged, and the future viability of sheep farmers must be addressed.
ICSA believes it is unacceptable that sheep farmers have been left out of any Covid compensation packages. Likewise, despite repeated calls from ICSA, there has been no BEAM type scheme for sheep farmers to compensate for Brexit related market fluctuations. It is wholly unfair that aid has been targeted solely at the beef and dairy sectors while sheep farmers, those with the lowest incomes by far, are left out.
Transparency along the food chain is also equally important for sheep farmers. We need to ensure that any appointed Food Ombudsman has oversight over the trade in sheep meat, particularly when it comes to the huge volumes of lambs being imported into the country and the impact that it has on local farmers. We need to shine a light on who is making all the profit along the food chain, and why sheep farmers are not being paid enough to cover their cost of production.”
Specifically, ICSA is calling on the Department of Agriculture to provide;
- Weekly reports on the number of lambs imported, and from where.
- Full transparency around which markets these imported lambs are servicing.
- A comprehensive explanation on how farmers can be assured these lambs are not being sold as Origin Green lambs.
- An outline of the veterinary protocols imposed and traceability requirements on all lambs at the point of export before they come to Irish meat factories.
Pressure has also been mounting on sheep farmers with the total collapse of the wool trade. Prices have dipped as low as 5c/kg for wool that costs €2.50-€3.00 a head to shear. As a result, many farmers have been left with no choice but to dump wool over the last several months which is a travesty when you consider all the uses it could potentially be put to, e.g. insulation, fertilizer, textiles etc. Wool needs to be recognised as a precious and valuable natural resource and the Sheep Taskforce could play a pivotal role in devising a strategy that would revive the wool industry in this country and harness its true potential.
The Sheep Welfare Scheme is also coming to an end and a lot of thought must be put into how the scheme can be improved going forward. The scheme does need considerable new investment and ICSA is proposing that an increased payment of €30 per ewe could be achieved with the addition of several bolt-on measures to the scheme. Through the Sheep Taskforce a consensus on the introduction of additional tasks could be reached to justify such an increase, and ensure greater viability for the sector.
Farming in Lismacaffrey, Co. Westmeath, Sean McNamara previously held the position of sheep vice-chairman and is a long-standing member of the association.
“In my view, it’s all about family farm profitability. Family drystock farms must become profitable again, and our aim should be to at least achieve the average industrial wage. ICSA firmly believes that farmers should be paid a fair price for their produce and will not stand back as others profiteer massively at the expense of hard working farmers.”
The ICSA is dedicated to strongly representing the interests of Irish suckler farmers. It is clear that a strong suckler sector, producing quality weanlings is crucial to a strong beef industry; ICSA believes suckler farmers need to be supported as much as possible to maintain the strength of the sector.
A strong beef price is vital to the success of the farmer selling weanlings; ICSA’s work to ensure a long-term, sustainable margin for beef producers is also key to the long-term viability of suckler farms.
ICSA is insistent that suckler beef must be developed and promoted as a unique high value product. We believe the current position of looking for PGI status for all beef is the wrong approach as it would do nothing to ensure the viability of the struggling suckler sector.
ICSA is hugely active in the area of knowledge transfer among suckler farmers. The Association regularly hosts suckler farm open days in various parts of the country, which attract large crowds and generate very positive feedback, both from an educational and social point of view. We also keep our members informed of any changes to the terms of the BDGP scheme and issue reminders of how to keep within the rules of the scheme to safeguard payment.
Hailing from Mallardstown near Callan, Mr O’Brien runs a suckler enterprise with 60 cows and works part-time as a linear scoring technician and as an AI technician.
“The priority for ICSA’s suckler committee is to ensure the schemes in CAP Pillar 2 deliver more support for suckler farmers and are matched with stronger national co-funding. In particular we need to see a new and improved BDGP scheme based on breeding quality beef using terminal and maternal sires, export grade weanlings and valuable cows both as calf producers and cull cows. In addition, ICSA wants to see a national policy devised for the international promotion of suckler beef as a niche product with the objective of increasing returns to producers. This would include a marketing strategy for suckler beef and PGI status specifically for sucklers.”
ICSA is committed to furthering the cause of rural development in Ireland, and giving strong voice to the issues that affect rural dwellers across the country.
ICSA is fighting to ensure fair distribution of Pillar 2 funds through the Rural Development Programme to support the drystock sectors. ICSA is lobbying for an improved Rural Development Programme which delivers money to farmers not professionals.
ICSA beleives a trebling of the current GLAS budget is the only realistic way to approach a new REPS type scheme. Farmers were let down by the drastic cuts in payments when they moved from the original REPS, through AEOS and on to GLAS, which coincided with an increasing expectation that farmers should do more on climate change and biodiversity. Those expectations are still there, but the penny must drop that those expectations cannot be met without adequate levels of financial support and reward. The hope is that 70,000 farmers would opt into a new REPS type scheme and in order to facilitate those numbers an annual budget of €750m would be the minimum required. This amounts to a trebling of the current GLAS budget of around €250m.
ICSA continues to say NO to unfair LPIS penalties. We firmly believe that no farmer should be penalised for maintaining land that had previously been told was eligible. ICSA is absolutely opposed to any five-year retrospective penalties and are currently involved in a legal challenge to such penalties.
ICSA’s Rural Development committee, under the direction of Mr Farrell, are also committed to tackling many issue facing rural communities on a daily basis including; rural crime, mental health and rural isolation in farming and the financial pressures that are currently facing many farmers.
Hailing from Taughmaconnell, Co Roscommon Mr Farrell is a suckler farmer who believes passionately that rural communities should be a safe and viable place to live and prosper.
“It is important for ICSA to work for all our members and the communities in which they live. We listen to farmers concerns and address the real issues affecting their lives.”