16 APRIL 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has called for a Brexit support package from Brussels for beef farmers who have struggled, and are continuing to struggle, with the impact of Brexit uncertainty fallout. “For beef producers Brexit has already effectively happened. While supports in the event of a no-deal Brexit have been mooted, the extension to October just prolongs the uncertainty. The beef sector needs a rescue package from Brussels now and the Government must strongly push for this,” he said.

Mr Kent was addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on The Future of the Beef Sector in the Context of Food Wise 2025 in the Dáil this afternoon.

Continuing Mr Kent said, “ICSA estimates that prime beef producers are losing almost €4 million a week on steers, heifers and young bulls compared to 2015, the last full year before Brexit. The base price today of €3.70 for an R grade steer is way below the real cost of production estimated to be at least €5/kg if we allow for a farmer’s own labour cost.

Mr Kent said that a package from Brussels should be directly linked to cattle slaughtered by winter finishers. Their losses in terms of price compared to last year varies but is typically in the order of €75-100/hd on heifers but can be as much as €200/hd on a typical young bull with account taken of price cut and weight penalties.

Mr Kent insisted the margins of all players along the food chain need to be subject to audit and full transparency. ICSA believes that Ireland should be pushing for an EU level auditor to audit and publish who makes the profit from beef and to expose retailers or processors who take excess margin from the food chain.

He said beef farmers have not seen a single cent of extra income from expanded agri-food exports as a result of Food Wise 2025. “The Food Wise plan was to expand agri-food exports from €10 billion to €19 billion by 2025, but there was zero focus on how to expand the income of beef farmers. Now the sector is in crisis and the level of despondency is palpable,” he said.

ICSA Beef chair Edmund Graham said attaining a Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) status for speciality suckler beef must be a priority. He said it must “underpin a strategy to develop a high value suckler brand, built around the ethos of biodiversity, high animal welfare and low carbon emissions per hectare which would deliver a better return for primary producers.”

Mr Graham impressed upon the committee that the current price grid needs to be reviewed. He said, “ICSA favours a simplified grid, with real and worthwhile bonuses for U grade cattle. He said the association also wants to see an end to the abuse of the quality assurance scheme by meat factories and an end to artificial devices for squeezing price such as age, weight and residency conditions.”



9 APRIL 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has welcomed comments by EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan that sets out some detail on how the EU Commission will support farmers in the event of no deal Brexit but the association is insisting that beef farmers need help, deal or no deal. “ICSA spoke to Commissioner Hogan today in Brussels and made the case that beef farmers are already taking a massive hit on Brexit. We estimate the cost of Brexit impact on beef price is already costing Irish beef farmers some €4 million a week on the prime cattle kill alone with knock on impact for calf and store producers.”

“ICSA has asked Commissioner Hogan to make immediate representations to the budget commissioner for a support package for the beef farmers who are the most affected by Brexit, regardless of whether it’s a no deal Brexit or some other outcome. The ongoing uncertainty around Brexit with the never ending confusion in London is doing a massive amount of harm to the beef farming sector with prices now way below the cost of production.”

Beef prices at € 3.70/kg for steers compare badly with the average annual price for R3 steers of €4.20/kg that was available in 2015. In turn the average 2015 price was a lot lower than the peak €4.40/kg available 2013.

“ICSA argues that the cost of production is now at least €5/kg when labour is costed. If the Brexit uncertainty continues to keep prices down at current levels, Irish beef farmers will not survive.”



9 APRIL 2019

ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara has called for the contentious EID project to be scrapped and said that farmers should be compensated for being forced to waste money on electronic tags. “The feedback I’m getting from factories and marts is that they are not going to install EID tag readers or issue an electronic printout for sheep and lambs presented for slaughter, meaning farmers will still have to fill out dispatch books as normal.”

Mr McNamara said, “Farmers have no choice but to EID tag and bear this extra cost for absolutely no reason. It is of no benefit to anyone if EID readers are not compulsory in all marts and factories. With costs continually rising and incomes falling, there was little appetite among sheep farmers for the introduction of mandatory EID tagging to start with, but anger is setting in at this waste of money now.”

Concluding Mr McNamara said, “In light of this, ICSA is calling on Minister Creed to scrap compulsory EID tagging and compensate farmers for money wasted purchasing EID tags. There is no justification for putting this expense on farmers for a system that’s not working.”




5 APRIL 2019

Westmeath and Offaly ICSA will host a joint meeting focusing on renewable energy production for farmers – including information on schemes and projects. ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham will also be on hand to discuss current issues facing the beef sector.

The meeting will take place in Castletown Geoghegan Community Centre, Castletown Geoghegan, Co. Westmeath on Thursday 11th April at 8pm.

Speakers on the night will include:

Tom Larkin, TGL Agri/Environmental Consulting,

On-farm Anaerobic Digestion and Evaluation of Carbon Emissions

Alan Jackson, Tipperary Energy Agency

Grants Available on Renewable Energy Schemes

Edmund Graham ICSA Beef Chair

The Current Crisis in the Beef Sector


Refreshments will be served. All farmers welcome.



28 MARCH 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has welcomed the publication of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality report on Community Policing and Rural Crime.  “ICSA wants to see the recommendations in this report put into action. Community policing is important. In 2017, ICSA in conjunction with Waterford Institute of Technology produced a series of reports on agricultural crime which showed 66% of farmers who responded had been the victim of some sort of crime. However, some 45% of agricultural crime was not reported to the Gardaí.”

“Rural crime is a significant problem in rural Ireland and it is impacting very much on communities, particularly those living in isolated areas. This is exacerbated by the loss of rural outlets such as pubs, post offices and Garda stations. The quality of life for people in such rural areas is declining and this is a major factor in mental health issues for people who feel isolated, lonely and afraid in their own homes and communities.”

“ICSA strongly favours a much more visible Garda presence in rural areas and the community model of policing which involves collaboration between the Gardaí and community representatives is vital. We want to see closer links so that Gardaí are known to their communities.”

Mr Kent reiterated the need to make it easier for communities to invest in CCTV cameras and to reduce the bureaucracy around funding for them. He also highlighted the importance of a marking system like CESAR but added that Gardaí need resources to increase the availability of scanners to read those markings.

“The Joint Committee report will only be worthwhile if there is full cross party commitment to implementing its findings.”



27 MARCH 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the Teagasc Sustainability report has blown apart the narrative that suckler and beef farmers are the problem on climate change. “The suckler herd is clearly not the problem when cattle farming systems produce less than half the emissions of intensive dairy farming systems per hectare.”

“This revelation means that where a hectare of land is switched from sucklers to intensive dairy, GHG emissions double. ICSA has been arguing for a long time that cattle and sheep farmers should not be the scapegoats for our climate change challenges. For too long, there has been a veil of silence over the outrageous blame game directed at our members – extensive cattle and sheep farmers – whereby statistics were massaged to make it look like suckler farming in particular had to carry the burden of adjustment.”

“While there is no doubt that all sectors have to do their bit in being more efficient in terms of emissions, it is now time for all to recognise that cattle, sheep and tillage systems give rise to between 2 and 4.2 tonnes CO2/ha compared with 8.5 tonnes for intensive dairy. This has serious implications for policy. It calls into question the long standing advice to cattle and sheep farmers to intensify and expand output.”

ICSA has continuously questioned that advice because in the beef sector, increased output does nothing except drive down prices. Even worse, it leads to the sort of price gouging we see at the moment where surplus supplies are leading to scandalous cuts on bull beef producers where the most arbitrary weight limits are used to defraud farmers out of a fair price.

“It is nothing short of a crime to see farmers being cut to €3/kg for prime beef when the apparent price for bull beef is €3.60/kg just because the carcass is a few days over two years old and above 420kg. At the same time, farmers who try to kill bulls under the age and weight limits get hammered on low fat score. “

“Instead of this, we need to be marketing suckler beef as a speciality high value product. It now emerges that a hectare of land devoted to suckler beef is far lower in emissions than intensive dairying. Suckler farmers and suckler beef finishers are sick and tired of bearing the brunt of adverse and ill-informed commentary on climate change while at the same time being used and abused to advertise all beef.”

“ICSA is the only recognised farm organisation that is 100% unequivocally in favour of targeting PGI (Protected Geograpical Indication) status at low intensity, speciality suckler beef. It is now time that we abandon any plans to market all beef as one generic and thereby cheap commodity product. It is now time to focus efforts on getting exclusive PGI status for suckler beef with a view to delivering a premium and economically viable price for our sucklers.”

“I welcome the information in the Teagasc Sustainability report and ICSA wants to see this recognition of the low emissions from suckler and sheep sectors used for the benefit of our members in terms of marketing beef. We also want to see the lower per hectare emissions from the cattle, sheep and tillage sectors rewarded in the CAP reform.”



26 MARCH 2019

ICSA Munster Vice President Dermot Kelleher has welcomed the purchasing of weanlings for export to Turkey by Dutch Livestock Company Heemskerk BV. Mr Kelleher, who has strongly pushed Minister Michael Creed on developing the live export trade, met the principals of the exporting company, Mr Cors Heemskerk and his wife Bea at Castleisland mart in recent days as they bought weanlings.

“I am very pleased that Heeskerk have secured an outlet for some 3,500 weanlings to be filled in the next month to fulfil a contract they secured in Turkey before the import restrictions were imposed. Their buyers are active at several marts around the country and they are actively looking for R grade weanlings up to 320kg.”

“I am hopeful that the trade restrictions will be lifted by the Turkish government in the coming months in time for the busy autumn trade. The Heemskerk company are a very reputable outfit having being involved in the live export trade for many years and they have close ties with Irish farming going back to the 1960s.”



13 MARCH 2018

ICSA president Patrick Kent has called on the Data Protection Commissioner to investigate if the reported IFA levies proposal is GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliant. “I am extremely concerned at the potential breach of farmers’ privacy rights under GDPR and data protection rules posed by proposals that meat factories would supply information about their suppliers to IFA.

“Levies are voluntary and many farmers have extreme misgivings about the method of taking money off them without their prior consent. At a very minimum, levies should only be collected from those who have opted in. However, this new proposal to force farmers to sign a no-levies document which will then become a blacklist sent to IFA is outrageous.

“My legal advice is that levies should only ever be deducted on an opt-in basis. There is no way that a farmer can be compelled to sign an opt-out of levies form in respect of livestock or produce supplied to a mart or processor, when it is clear that such confidential information will then be forwarded to IFA.”

“It is highly likely that this will end up being the subject of a claim to the Data Protection Commissioner. However, it is unacceptable that any farmer who objects will be confronted by the might of a meat factory which in turn has the comfort of being indemnified by IFA. I am therefore calling on the Data Protection Commissioner to proactively investigate what is going on here and explain to all farmers just what their rights are under GDPR.”

ICSA represents its members interests in Ireland and at European level and does not take levies.



13 MARCH 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the announcement on tariff rates by the British Government crystallises our worst fears of the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the Irish beef sector. “The beef farming sector is already in crisis, with prices back up to €200/ head year on year for certain categories of animal. In some cases, farmers have had delays in getting animals processed. This announcement will cause dismay and we cannot underestimate the potential devastation to beef farming.”

“The plans by the UK government outline tariffs on beef of 53% of the EU tariff rate for beef and 100% for sheepmeat. While the beef rate could have been even higher, the distinction is academic as it poses an immense barrier to continued beef exports to the UK. In the short term, we should expect that contracts already signed with UK supermarkets will be honoured but in this kind of scenario all bets are off.  In any event, it is certain that these tariffs will soon begin to cause calamity for our beef exports.”

“The rates imposed on sheep meat are actually much more punitive, presumably because the UK government has decided to protect their sheep farmers but our sheep farmers are not so dependent on the UK for exports.

There is some leeway provided by a tariff rate quota of approximately 125,000 tons for beef at 0% rate. In theory we could avail of some of this quota but it will be open to all other exporters of beef as well including South America.

It is notable that the tariffs will not apply to beef exported to Northern Ireland but it is unclear yet as to how this might pan out.”

In practice, this suggests that Irish beef which is subjected to the tariff will be about 40% dearer than currently and therefore most UK consumers would be deterred from buying it. UK supermarkets would then have to choose between vastly increased beef prices or buying less traceable, low standard beef from South America.



12 MARCH 2019

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has said that any farmer considering buying dairy calves should demand a factory contract, to include an agreed price, in advance of purchasing. Mr Graham said, “Farmers even remotely thinking about taking on these calves need a guarantee that there will be an outlet for them in two years’ time that will cover the cost of production, plus a margin.”

Continuing Mr Graham said, “The economics of dairy bull beef simply don’t stack up. Even if you get the calves for free, they are still too expensive at today’s prices and that’s the reality. We have no clarity on the outlook for dairy bull beef so why take the risk and expend two years for nothing? This enterprise is a complete waste of time; it’s bad enough losing money but to have the stress of not knowing when or if you can get your bulls killed is completely unacceptable. Even with steer or heifer systems it is it is absolutely necessary to know what price you can expect in two years’ time. Farmers cannot be expected to undertake long term investment without long term contracts. This year has to be the last year of winter finishers getting burned.”