17 JUNE 2019

ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch has said that the Government Climate Action plan will be very challenging for the agriculture sector. However, he said that farmers will always respond to the right incentives.

“ICSA believes that it makes much more sense to produce livestock in a sustainable way from Irish grassland rather than relocate it to South America where the potential environmental impact of increased productivity is much more damaging.

Nonetheless, the requirement to achieve a 10-15% reduction in agricultural emissions by 2030 will not be easy. Livestock farming systems have very low profitability and any extra cost cannot be carried by farm families. Some reductions in emissions can coincide with improved economic efficiency however.”

“We also need to look at policies to ensure that farmers who engage in best practice from an environmental point of view are rewarded. For example, future Agri-environment schemes need to be a lot more like REPS and a lot less like GLAS in terms of ensuring that those who participate are paid for their costs and for their labour.”

“We also need to look again at better policies at both national and EU level on renewable energies. For example, we want to see the development of renewable biogas produced in anaerobic digesters on Irish farms.”

“This can be a win-win in delivering benefits to rural communities, reducing imported energy and providing extra income for farmers. It is also a far better solution for industry in the ETS sector to use biogas than to buy carbon credits and this option can also help with marketing lower carbon footprint foods.

Likewise, Ireland should support increased use of sustainable biofuels, produced from crops grown in the EU.”

However, the ICSA slammed EU plans to do a Mercosur deal. “It makes no sense to bring in more beef and other agricultural products from South America while pressing EU farmers to reduce emissions. Cutting down rainforests in South America and then blaming Irish farmers for climate change is illogical.”



7 JUNE 2019

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association will host an open meeting to discuss the biggest question on beef farmers minds since Commissioner Hogan announced a €50m aid package, matched by the State, to cushion the financial blow farmers have experienced due to Brexit uncertainties. The €100m package is intended to compensate farmers retrospectively on price losses since last autumn.

ICSA Beef chair Edmund Graham has categorically said “Not a red cent should go to factory-owned feedlots or processors. Farmers are on their knees, this fund must be fairly allocated, finalised and delivered to farmers as soon as possible. We have an opportunity now to make sure that this important fund is used to help farmers most affected and ICSA want farmers to have their say”.

This open meeting will be held at the Athlone Springs Hotel at 8pm on Thursday the 13th of June. General secretary Eddie Punch, beef chair Edmund Graham and suckler chair John Halley will address the meeting however farmer participation will be actively encouraged.

“This is your opportunity to be heard and to have your say” said Mr Graham who is encouraging all farmers to attend.

For further enquiries, please call ICSA in Portlaoise on 057 8662120.



ICSA suckler chairman John Halley has said that comments by EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan suggesting a payment for farmers wishing to exit the suckler sector need careful consideration. “Suckler farming is delivering unacceptably low margins because of the ongoing inability of the meat industry to deliver a viable price. Excess supply of cattle is being used by meat factories to drive down price. Therefore, policy proposals to encourage farmers to keep more suckler cows than they would otherwise do are doomed to failure.”

“ICSA has consistently pointed out that coupled payments do not work because they are simply a way of ensuring cheap supplies to processors and retailers. It has now got to the stage that a voluntary scheme to reduce numbers makes more sense.  ICSA made this argument a few years ago and it is interesting that we are now being listened to. Our view is that such a scheme would be voluntary, would involve payments over a five year period, and would reflect the average number of cows calved over a three year period. ”

“However, for the proposal to work, we need to consider real alternative options for those farmers who want to exit sucklers.   While there are undoubtedly farmers who want to leave because of age, ICSA believes that it is now time to look at putting the right policies in place to make renewable energy a viable alternative for farmers. The current policy framework is not working and there is a massive missed opportunity to develop renewable energy options such as anaerobic digesters and solar panels.”

“ICSA also wants to see a much better agri-environment scheme. What we need is a scheme that is a lot more like REPS and a lot less like GLAS. The key is that those who participate must be financially better off than those that don’t and in a way which takes account of the opportunity and labour costs of being in an agri-environment scheme.   It is total hypocrisy to demand that policy responds to the so-called Green Wave across Europe if farmers are expected to deliver all sorts of societal goals relating to climate change and biodiversity while meeting the cost out of their own pocket and working for free.”

“We also need to look at training and assistance for farmers who leave suckling to take up new enterprises. This applies to other farm enterprises as well as to alternative rural enterprises. Training for off-farm employment should also be part of the package.”

“ICSA believes that there can be a bright future for sucklers.  But this will require a determined effort to get PGI status for suckler beef and a strategy to market it as a high value niche product in terms of animal welfare and natural farming methods.   The future of sucklers is also dependent on increased live exports to countries like Italy, Greece and Turkey.   However, it is far from clear that there is room for the current number of suckler cows especially as the meat industry sees more suckler cows as central to their strategy to drive down price.  Hence, it is time for an honest debate around the proposal to provide a voluntary exit package for some so that the remaining suckler farmers can prosper.”



31 MAY 2019

ICSA sheep chairman Sean McNamara has warned that meat factories must not cut sheep prices for next week. “ICSA has protested on this matter and we have met Irish Country Meats on this matter. Our message is crystal clear; sheep farmers absolutely cannot bear more price cuts in the short to medium term.”

“The average sheep farmer’s income in 2018 was €13,769, that’s down 21% on the previous year. If there are more price cuts in the coming week, we’ll be wiped out altogether. They have been warned.”

Mr McNamara also reminded farmers that from tomorrow, June 1, it becomes mandatory that all sheep moving off farm must be identified electronically. “As it stands, lambs that are not EID tagged will be sent home. Farmers must also bring their new version dispatch book, but they should also demand full printouts for the stock they have sold. This was promised to us and factories need to deliver on it.”



31 MAY 2019


ICSA Leinster vice president Jimmy Cosgrave has said the sharp drop in income figures for drystock farmers revealed in the Teagasc Farm Survey for 2018 demonstrates how both Brexit and adverse weather have had a massive impact on farm incomes. “When you see the abysmal incomes for cattle systems it demonstrates how badly they need the €100m Brexit package delivered as quickly as possible. It must be targeted at farmers that lost a significant amount on cattle sales and fully focused on those farmers in low income systems,” he said.

“Annual incomes averaging as low as €8,318 for suckler farmers down (22% on 2017), €13,769 for sheep farmers, (down 21% on 2017) and €14,408 for beef farmers (down 11% on 2017) reveal the stark reality for most our cattle and sheep farmers. The reality is hitting home that primary producers do not benefit whatsoever as our agri-food exports grow by hundreds of millions year on year. 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.”

Concluding Mr Cosgrave said, “These figures once again illustrate that CAP payments will have to be re-jigged to target the low-income sectors and this must be central to any CAP reforms.”



28 MAY 2019

ICSA officials, led by sheep chairman Sean McNamara, have today met with senior management from Irish Country Meats (ICM) in Camolin. The meeting was called following an ICSA protest at the site last week due to sharp falls in sheep prices in recent weeks.

Following the meeting Mr McNamara said, “We had a very robust discussion with the management team here at ICM Camolin. Last week we were here to protest, and these officials witnessed at first-hand the anger amongst sheep farmers. We came here today to reinforce the message that sheep farmers cannot bear these savage price cuts and must be paid an adequate price for their produce, end of story.”

“To that end ICSA has insisted there can be absolutely no more price cuts in the short to medium term. ICSA also received an assurance from the factory that full electronic reading will be in place from Tuesday morning next (4 June), which will ensure accurate printouts of lambs killed for farmers.”

Mr McNamara has been very critical of Minister Creed’s failure to ensure that all marts and factories would have EID reading systems in place by 1 June.



24 MAY 2019

Three candidates are in the running to become the next president of ICSA following the close of nominations this evening.

In alphabetical order, these candidates are as follows:

  • Hugh Farrell, Cavan
  • Dermot Kelleher, Cork west
  • Edmond Phelan, Waterford

The election will take place in Portlaoise on the evening of Thursday, 27 June.



24 MAY 2019

ICSA suckler chair John Halley has said he will be batting for suckler farmers to get their fair share of the €100m Brexit support package for beef farmers. “Since March 2017 weanlings have been back 30 to 40 cent a kilo. That equates to losses of between €120 to €160 a head for top quality weanlings. Those are massive losses for a suckler farmer to bear.”

“While finishers are able to cut their cloth according to their measure when they go back to the ring, suckler farmers are not so fortunate as they just have to take what they can get. It must be remembered, if the finishers don’t have the raw material to work with then the finisher will have to produce the calves for themselves.”

“It is imperative that the suckler farmer is protected and the losses they have suffered must be taken into consideration when the support funds are being allocated. When the finisher sneezes, it’s the suckler farmer that gets the flu.”



22 MAY 2019

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has said farmer owned feedlots are entitled to a fair share of the €100m Brexit support package for beef farmers. “These farmers are important to the cattle trade and have suffered badly too,” he said.

“It is important to remember that many feedlots are owned by farm families. Their feedlot status is a Department of Agriculture TB measure and used for managing TB regulations only. This does not mean they are not genuine family farms.”

“On the other hand, ICSA is adamant that factory owned feedlots should not receive any support. Factories are the ones who have made a killing over recent months and ICSA will be insisting they have no access to any portion of these badly needed funds. It is our absolute priority that these funds need to be directed at those who are genuinely deserving.”



21 MAY 2019

ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara has called on meat processors to stop giving preference to lambs from the north and elsewhere at the expense of Irish lambs. “It’s disgraceful to see Irish lambs being turned away because lairages are full of imported lambs. They have lambs available on their doorsteps, yet preference is being given to truckloads of foreign lambs every day of the week,” he said.

“At present, ICSA has reason to believe up to 40% of the current sheep kill is made up of foreign lambs. While we accept that a certain amount of imported lamb is required to meet export demands, the numbers coming in now are only serving to keep the prices paid to Irish farmers at rock bottom. It’s a shameful tactic and a shocking way to treat a sector that operates on such slim margins. With the price for spring lamb crashing below €5.50/kg, sheep farmers are facing enormous difficulties.”

ICSA intends to keep up the pressure to have these cuts reversed and officials from the association will be meeting with several processors in the coming days.