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.”



16 MAY 2018

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has welcomed news of a deal between the ABP Food Group and Asian restaurant group Wowprime Corporation. The three year deal, valued at €50 million, will see the Irish owned meat processor supply beef to the Wowprime network of restaurants across China.

Commenting on the deal Mr Graham said, “Securing deals of this nature around the world is testament to the quality produce of Irish farmers, so it is imperative that farmers should benefit from it. With the Chinese looking for superior quality beef it could  also help stop the decline in numbers of the suckler cow herd. The main thing is that this move should underpin a badly needed price rise to make cattle farming sustainable and not just add to the profits of processors.”

Continuing Mr Graham said, “For too long the financial benefits of such deals have not trickled down to the primary producer. Farmers cannot always be expected to do more for less. The proof of this pudding will once again be in the price beef farmers can achieve.”



16 MAY 2018 

ICSA president Patrick Kent has reminded farmers that they can make amendments to their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application until midnight on Tuesday 31 May without penalty as long as they submitted their initial application by last night’s deadline. This year it was mandatory for all applications to be lodged online.

Mr Kent said, “It remains to be seen if everyone wishing to submit an application could do so in time. Indications are there were some difficulties lodging applications as the deadline approached. Given this was the first year all applications had to be made online, we would call for some flexibility to be shown where individuals had genuine difficulty in fulfilling this obligation. It is also important to remember that you can add to or take from your application right up to midnight on 31 May without penalty.”

Anyone with outstanding issues regarding their BPS application are advised to contact The Department of Agriculture offices in Portlaoise on 076 106 4424.



15 MAY 2018

ICSA president Patrick Kent has given a sceptical response to the suggestion of an early slaughter premium as a means of keeping suckler numbers up. “Slaughter premia have been tried before and all they do is give a subsidy to meat factories and consumers. People forget that beef price during the coupled payments era was stuck at €2.50/kg. At the moment beef price is €4.20 for Rs and rising and under 16 month bulls are being bought on the grid so they can fetch over €4.40 for top U grades.”

“I suspect that the meat industry is behind this as they are looking at scarcity, increased opportunities for exports to China and live exports. The meat industry would love a slice of farmers’ existing Pillar 1 payments as a means of keeping a lid on prices.”

“We also must question whether a slaughter premium focused on early slaughter is compatible with claiming that we are selling grass fed beef? There is no joined up thinking here. This is pushing beef finishing down an intensive, high cost system which will suit a few large scale feedlots. Instead of using grass, we will be taking some of the CAP money to pay for imported cereals. How can this be sustainable?  How can we claim we are selling grass fed beef if we use diminishing CAP funds to subsidise intensive cereal based systems?

“Worst of all, this proposal would provide unfair competition for live exports to markets such as Turkey. Anything which damages live exports is not in the interest of the suckler sector. We need competition between Irish finishers and live exporters but this must be based on factories paying a decent bonus for heavy U grade carcasses. Above all, we must ensure that the maximum number of calves and weanlings are shipped out of Ireland. A gimmicky slaughter premium will do nothing to help this.”

ICSA would also be concerned that an early slaughter premium would be used to support dairy bred bull beef, when the only place for them is veal units in Europe.



14 MAY 2018

The ICSA sheep committee held a protest today (Monday) at the Department of Agriculture headquarters to reflect growing anger among sheep farmers about EID tagging, as well as the clean sheep policy. ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks said that the Minister’s unilateral decision to impose mandatory electronic tags (EID) on lambs destined for factories was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“There is neither rhyme nor reason to the Minister’s decision to impose mandatory electronic tagging on lambs going direct to the factory. The traceability requirement is that they are tagged before they leave the farm. A few hours later, the lamb is processed with the ear disposed of and the costly electronic ear tag is in the skip.

The Minister talks about new markets but the reality is that the vast majority of our lamb will continue to go to EU markets which are under-supplied. There is no need to add cost to our lamb for existing markets and the reality is that in the biggest EU market – France – lamb imports will always be discounted compared to native French lamb regardless of what we put in lambs’ ears.

The main marketing logic was allegedly for the US market but this won’t be the first Minister to talk up the potential of the US market in vain. If we can’t make inroads there with grass fed beef, we are highly unlikely to fare much better with sheepmeat.

This decision will add some €2.5 million cost to sheep farmers, based on additional costs of €1/lamb and a throughput of some 2.5 million lambs/ annum. However, the average profit per lamb is about €14, based on an annual average price of €100 or €4.80/kg over the past five years.  It costs the average Teagasc profit monitor farmer €86 to produce a lamb. So when the Minister adds €1 cost to a lamb producing €14 profit, he is imposing a 7% income cut. This compares badly with EU proposals to cut CAP direct payments by 4%.”

Mr Brooks added that the proposal for a one-off payment of €50 was really rubbing farmers up the wrong way. “Does the Minister really believe we can be bought off for €50? You’d give it to a youngster for their holy communion but it doesn’t make up for a permanently imposed cost leading to a 7% cut in sheep farmers’ profits. That’s on lowland farms. The situation is even worse for hill farmers who are being asked to fund an extra euro when selling store lambs from the hills that might only be worth €20-30.”

The protest is also on the back of farmer anger over the clean sheep policy which has been imposed without any concern for the problems it has caused in factories this year. “We need an urgent review of the implementation of the policy as we cannot allow a repeat of the chaos we have seen on occasion in factories with whole consignments of lambs being sent off for shearing. It is incumbent on the Department to pull all stakeholders together to develop a consensus on what will work in practice. It is especially important  that Teagasc develop and trial  systems of production that will ensure farmers can comply with requirements. Farmers need certainty and there is a lot of anger about the lottery of sending lambs in to a factory not knowing what will happen to them.”

ICSA wants an urgent meeting with the Minister and the association is insisting that it’s back to the drawing board for compulsory EID for lambs and for the clean sheep policy.




14 MAY 2018

ICSA is to mount a protest  in opposition to the mandatory introduction of EID tagging for all sheep today, Monday 14 May. ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has said that members of the ICSA sheep committee wish to highlight the mounting anger of sheep farmers against this unnecessary move.

Commenting Mr Brooks said, “The introduction of mandatory EID tagging will cost sheep farmers €2.5m per year. It has been done without warning or consultation at the behest of processors who are the only ones who will benefit. It is unacceptable that sheep farmers should bear all the cost.”

In addition Mr Brooks said, “ICSA is also deeply concerned about the chaotic rollout of the Clean Livestock Policy (CLP) for sheep. We are demanding an immediate review of the implementation of the policy.”

The protest will take place at the Department of Agriculture, Kildare St. Dublin and will start at 12.30pm.