UNFAIR TOLLS FOR LARGER VEHICLES CAUSING MANY TO ABANDON MOTORWAY NETWORK

18 AUGUST 2017

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that commercial jeeps and vans should not be deterred from using the motorway network due to unfair tolls. “Hard working farmers and small business owners using commercial vehicles are being hammered with excessive tolls, paying almost 80% more than what private car owners pay for using the same piece of road.”

Continuing Mr Kent said “We do not want to see a situation whereby we have more and more people opting out of using the motorway system due to the cost. The nature of farming and small business enterprises means that deliveries and trips to the mart and suppliers etc. must be undertaken on a frequent basis so the cost of tolls can really add up. With the system as it is we are essentially penalising hard working people trying to make a living. It is simply another cost that they cannot carry.”

“From a road safety point of view motorways have proven to be the safest roads on the network. Pushing larger vehicles back on to secondary and country roads is in nobody’s best interest. A fairer system would encourage all road users to use the motorway system rather than just see it as yet another costly rip-off. It is for these reasons that ICSA is calling for the same toll rate for commercial jeeps and vans as applies to cars.”

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ICSA SEEKS DEBATE ON BEEF BREEDING STRATEGIES IN ADVANCE OF COMPULSORY ICBF LEVY

2 AUGUST 2017

ICSA suckler chairman John Halley has said that the decision to make the ICBF levy compulsory on all new born calf tags from 1 November should be preceded by an open and transparent debate about the best model for funding ICBF and its role in the development of cattle and sheep breeding.

The Minister did not consult with ICSA on the decision to make this levy compulsory, which Mr Halley described as unacceptable. “We need a more comprehensive debate about the direction of cattle breeding in the context of dairy expansion, in a country where beef and cattle exports are still phenomenally important.”

ICSA believes that while ICBF has put huge resources into beef breeding in recent years, beef interests are under represented on the board of ICBF. “We need to look at how this can be remedied. ICSA is excluded from decision making at ICBF board level and beef breed societies are manifestly under-represented. The development of intellectual property from the data supplied by farmers is looking like an increasingly important facet of the ICBF model and it is clear that how this is monetised is a matter for all farming representatives, not just some.”

In addition, Mr Halley said that there was a variety of factors which determine profitability in suckling which also supported the need for broad based debate and, ultimately, decisions at board level. “Weight gain must be balanced against price/kg and both must be balanced against cow calving interval and numbers of live calves weaned.”

“We also need to be able to question the new dogma in dairy breeding which completely devalues the beef merit of the calf in favour of a low maintenance small cow that calves within a six week period and produces high fat and protein. The strategy for dairy breeding is entirely in keeping with New Zealand farming models where the bull calves are killed at birth.”

“If we want New Zealand breeding outcomes, then we have to accept the consequences of that but this is not discussed openly when we determine Irish dairy breeding strategy. Unfortunately, it is the beef farmers and, indirectly, the suckler farmers who end up carrying the consequences of these decisions.”

“The levy model has got a very bad reputation as a result of lack of transparency around levies for other organisations and it is no surprise that many farmers have opted out of the levy on calf tags for reasons that have little to do with ICBF. However, ICBF should not be tarnished unfairly with the same brush.   ICBF has been to the fore in building databases which are a huge asset to cattle breeding in Ireland.”

Farmer influence on ICBF is not something that should be let slip through other funding models but it is timely to look at the make-up of farmer representation,” he concluded.

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ICSA DEEP RESERVATIONS ON ATTORNEY GENERAL’S VIEW OF FAIR DEAL SCHEME

1 AUGUST 2017

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has expressed deep reservations on the view from the Attorney General that making the Fair Deal scheme fair for farm families would not be possible unless similar arrangements were put in place for all businesses.

“ICSA is seeking an urgent meeting with Minister Jim Daly to discuss this issue. We will be seeking clarity on the detail of the AG’s opinion. In addition, we believe that the Attorney General also needs to reflect on whether the “look-back” clause of the Fair Deal Scheme is consistent with constitutional property rights.”

“In essence, the look-back clause undermines the property rights of the new owner, in circumstances where ownership of the farm has been transferred lawfully by way of a gift, in the previous five years. The Fair Deal Scheme allows the state to either have part (or all) of the farm sold or a charging order placed on the farm with a view to meeting outstanding nursing home liabilities, in respect of a person, who once upon a time owned that farm.”

“This is extremely dubious in ICSA’s view. For example, the transfer of a farm might form part of a much more complex family settlement involving other siblings. One child may have got farmland; others may have been supported in other ways such as sites, contributions to purchase of a home or education. Why should the child who got the farm assume all liability for the nursing home bill?”

“Moreover, once an asset is transferred, whether by gift or by sale, surely that asset is now secure in the new owner’s possession. If a farmer sold his farm to his child four years before he entered a nursing home, could the Fair Deal Scheme come after that child to pay the nursing home bill? What if the son or daughter who gets the farm by way of gift had to make provision for educating other siblings or indeed provide them with sites?”

“In addition, there must be a question about the reality that a farm’s value may change considerably as a result of work and investment carried out after the transfer. How can the state assume a right to a farm – properly transferred – which is now much more valuable as a result of being developed by means of investment from the spouse of the transferee?”

“ICSA believes that there are serious constitutional question marks about this element of the Fair Deal Scheme. If the Attorney General has been asked to examine it from one angle, then it must be looked at in its entirety.”

“ICSA has been fighting to make the scheme fairer for farmers. There is a deep seated fear of the Fair Deal Scheme in rural Ireland with many fearing that participation in the scheme could eventually lead to the sale of their farm to pay for nursing home fees. It is a serious issue when you have perfectly viable farms being put out of business because of a poorly designed and unfair scheme.”

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KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER DEADLINE EXTENSION MUST NOT LEAD TO PAYMENT DELAYS

25 JULY 2017

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has welcomed the announcement that the deadline for herd health and farm plans under the Knowledge Transfer Scheme has been extended to 21 August. However, he cautioned that this cannot be allowed to delay payments to farmers. “ICSA insists that the €750 payment must be delivered on time. While the extension is welcome, it cannot be allowed to provide an excuse for late payments.”

Mr Sherlock added that the extension demonstrates again that schemes are being devised which are far too complex for the payments involved. There is not enough thought about whether advisors or Department resources are able to meet the challenges of actually delivering results.

“The Knowledge Transfer Scheme is a particularly bad case in point where a mediocre payment of €750 is involved. In order to get this, the farmer must attend meetings, pay up to €200 for a herd health plan and typically up to €300 for a planner/advisor. Yet it is now clear that planners and vets are struggling to meet deadlines and we will soon see if the Department has resolved the debacle that applied to GLAS last year.”

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WESTMEATH’S DANIEL LYNAM ELECTED ICSA NATIONAL TREASURER

21 JULY 2017

ICSA Westmeath chairman Daniel Lynam has been elected National Treasurer of the association at a recent meeting of ICSA’s National Executive. Hailing from Castletown Geoghegan Mr Lynam farms in conjunction with his two sons David and Donal on the home farm in Castletown Geoghegan and more recently on a farm in Tyrrellspass.

The Lynams focus primarily on store to beef heifers with the herd including Charolais, Simmentals and Belgian Blues. They also have a dairying operation in Castletown Geoghegan, rear store lambs and currently have 42 acres devoted to tillage. Mr Lynam has been actively involved in ICSA for many years and recently held a hugely successful DAFM Knowledge Transfer Reseeding Demo on the farm of his son David in Tyrellspass. Mr Lynam is also active in membership development initiatives at ICSA.

Speaking following his election as National Treasurer Mr Lynam said, “ICSA is committed to courageously defending the interests of farmers, both at national and international level. As an association made up of commercial drystock farmers of all sizes from right around the country we implicitly understand the challenges facing the sector. It is a privilege to represent the farming community of Westmeath and I look forward to helping to further develop the association at a national level as treasurer.”

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GREENWAY SHOULD MINIMISE DISRUPTION TO FARMING ACTIVITY

17 JULY 2017

ICSA rural development chair Seamus Sherlock has insisted that the Greenway cycle plan cannot be implemented through a process of CPO or without proper consultation with landowners. “The whole process has been discredited because of an arrogant or heavy handed approach in which routes were designed from the sky without any understanding of how this might interfere with ordinary farmers on the ground. We need to minimise disruption to farming activity as a key principle in the process.”

“ICSA believes that the focus on greenway is too narrow. There is no justification for insisting on a route that dissects working farms in half. Instead, all options should be looked at including segregated on-road, off-road and cycle trails. Where possible, state lands should be used. We also need to recognise that in the vicinity of Galway city, the primary user of a proper cycle route are likely to be commuters and this should be prioritised in the design rather than some notion of taking a meandering route through farmland.”

“ICSA is committed to standing up for the rights of farmers. We have already met with Minister Ross who gave a commitment to proper consultation with landowners and we intend to hold him to that commitment.”

Mr Sherlock indicated that the ICSA submission to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport insists on proper consultation, use of non-farmland where possible including some on-road routes and that farmland should be considered only where there is complete consensus with all farmers in a given area. “Even then, we cannot accept route plans which split farm holdings or interfere with the normal commercial activities of farms. CPOs are totally unacceptable as this is not essential infrastructure but in fact, is an experimental tourism project.”

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ICSA CRITICAL OF GAA BROADCASTING DEAL WITH SKY

10 JULY 2017

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has called on the GAA to reflect on its decision to only show certain matches on Pay-TV, a decision which has left many unable to see crucial matches. “The championship is now heading into the knockout stages and every game will be fiercely contested and for many older fans living in rural areas free-to-air TV was their only opportunity to witness the game.”

“The decision to tie themselves into a multi-year deal with SKY showed a complete lack of empathy on the part of the GAA towards older people living in rural Ireland, many of whom are lifelong stalwarts of the association. I am very disappointed with the GAA’s attitude of putting profit before its patrons, and denying so many the chance to enjoy our native games. It was a terrible decision and one that should be abandoned at the earliest possible stage.”

ENDS

TRUE COST OF AGRICULTURAL CRIME REVEALED IN ICSA SURVEY

4 JULY 2017

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said, “The financial costs of agricultural crime is an unacceptable burden and one that cannot be written off as part and parcel of life in rural Ireland.” Mr Kent was speaking following the publication of the second tranche of ICSA’s Agricultural Crime Survey undertaken with Waterford Institute of Technology. The focus of this tranche is the Financial Costs of Agricultural Crime in Ireland.

“We now have proof that agricultural crime is hitting farmers’ pockets at a time when most are struggling to make ends meet at all. Theft, vandalism and fly-tipping all have serious cost implications for farmers, as do increased insurance premiums when farmers have to make a claim. The report is hugely important as determining the costs of agricultural crime provides the justification for spending scarce resources on tackling the issue.”

The results of the survey indicate for the first time the true costs of agricultural crime to the farm business. 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.

Commenting on the survey findings ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock said “As well as the financial cost, there is also the unseen cost of fear and stress caused when your home or farm has been targeted by criminals. We are witnessing the whole fabric of rural society being decimated with farmers feeling more and more isolated and side-lined. Nobody should have to live in a state of constant fear and anxiety.

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ICSA CALLS FOR 24/7 CARDIAC CARE SERVICES AT WATERFORD UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL

29 JUNE 2017

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said cardiac care services at Waterford University Hospital need to be fully resourced for weekend cover. Mr Kent was speaking following recent events which resulted in the tragic death of Waterford farmer Thomas Power.

Mr Kent said “The lack of a 24/7 cardiac care service in the south east region is a disgrace. Our sympathies go out to Mr Power’s family and friends at this very difficult time. Nobody should be denied critical services when they need them most, whatever day of the week it may be.”

Concluding Mr Kent said, “Those living in rural Ireland cannot be expected to accept inferior emergency care services. This preventable tragedy must serve as wake-up call for 24/7 cover to be implemented as a matter of urgency.”

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HIGH COURT DISMISSES INJUNCTION AGAINST ICSA

27 JUNE 2017

The High Court has today dismissed an application by Mr James Reynolds for an Interlocutory Injunction against ICSA. In so doing, the Interim Injunction granted to Mr Reynolds has now been set aside and full costs have been awarded to ICSA.

The Hon Mr Justice Paul Gilligan held that ICSA acted in accordance with its constitution in removing Mr Reynolds from the association and thereby removing him as treasurer.

The ICSA management committee had taken these steps because it determined that being deputy president of the National Party and acting as its spokesman could not be reconciled with also being the ICSA treasurer. ICSA also objected to the gratuitously offensive nature of comments made on social media by Mr Reynolds regarding the former Taoiseach, the EU Commissioner and other politicians. ICSA, as a lobbying organisation, will continue to fight for farmers with all political parties using the credibility it has built up over many years as a fair, neutral and determined advocate.

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