Have your say on CAP Reform proposals

12th June, 2012

An important meeting to discuss the CAP Reform proposals will take place in Athy next week, hosted by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association.

The meeting will be addressed by a number of high-profile speakers including Liam Aylward, MEP for Ireland East; Martin Heydon, TD; a senior official from the Department of Agriculture; ICSA President, Gabriel Gilmartin and ICSA General Secretary, Eddie Punch.  It will be chaired by ICSA National CAP Committee Chairman, Billy Gray.  

A comprehensive and open discussion on all the issues surrounding the CAP negotiations will take place on the night and everyone is welcome.  The latest updates from Brussels will be presented and those in attendance will have the opportunity to have their say on the topic. 

The meeting takes place on Thursday 21st of June, at the Clanard Court Hotel, Athy, Co. Kildare, beginning at 8.30pm sharp. 

ICSA condemns violence against vulnerable rural dwellers

8th June, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association strongly condemns the violence being perpetrated against elderly people in rural areas.

It comes after a recent spate of distressing incidents, in which the homes of elderly people have been broken into and robbed, and the residents assaulted.

ICSA President, Gabriel Gilmartin, said, “These are appalling acts of violence towards some of society’s most vulnerable people. Elderly people living in rural areas are seen as something of an easy target for criminals and we must do all that we can to prevent these attacks and help the Gardaí investigate them when they do happen.”

“I would call on people living in isolated areas to be vigilant and keep an eye out for anything suspicious in their area and report it to the Gardaí if something doesn’t seem right.”

ICSA calls for compulsory microchipping of all dogs

8th June, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is calling for a change to the existing dog-control legislation, so that it would be compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped. 

It would mirror the law that came into force in Northern Ireland in April of this year, under the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which says that all dogs north of the border must have a microchip.

ICSA Sheep chairman, Paul Brady said: “When the proposals first came to my attention, my initial thought was of marauding dogs attacking sheep. However, the threat from dogs is much deeper and sinister than just sheep worrying, as distressing as that is for sheep farmers. Microchipping helps local councils and wardens to deal with dangerous, out of control and possibly diseased dogs which pose a danger to everyone. In the last few months alone several children have been attacked by the likes of Husky dogs in Limerick, Clare, Donegal and elsewhere. We need a stronger regime of control which promotes more responsible dog ownership for everyone’s benefit.” 

ICSA Leinster Vice President, Paddy Kent said, “microchipping is already used by all responsible dog owners for traceability – but it is also useful for the control of diseases.  These include Toxocariasis and Neospora.  Toxocariasis can cause a range of nasty symptoms in humans including blindness and epilepsy.  Neospora, which is highly transmissible, causes abortion and early embryo loss in cattle and can be transmitted by unvaccinated dogs.  This is stress and cost that could be avoided by making microchipping compulsory for every dog in Ireland.”

Mr Kent added, “this system would also need to be backed up with a well-organised, central database monitored by a State authority.”

Mr. Brady continued: “It is unacceptable in my view that dogs – which in more ways than one can be highly dangerous animals – are not subject to the same controls as cattle and horses.  10,000 dogs were put down in pounds across the country last year because their owners could not be traced. This number would be significantly reduced if each dog was microchipped and their owner’s details recorded in the database.  We in ICSA are confident that those who truly value their pets and working dogs will view this ICSA campaign as a progressive initiative rather than as an imposition.”

New thinking needed on agricultural emissions policies

7th June, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association agrees with the finding of the Economic and Social Research Institute that a new deal is needed on agricultural emissions targets for Europe.  

The ESRI has published its Environment Review 2012, which finds that if we are to meet the targets for increased agricultural production under Food Harvest 2020, Ireland will struggle to meet its emissions obligations.  

ICSA President Gabriel Gilmartin said, “on the one hand, Food Harvest 2020 says we must strive to dramatically increase agricultural production – but on the other, we are expected to reduce the emissions from farming activities.  The two targets are plainly incompatible.”

As a whole, Ireland is supposed to reduce its emissions by 20% by the year 2020.  ICSA is firmly of the opinion that this is much too onerous due to the fact that agriculture as an industry is proportionately far more significant here than in other EU countries.  

Mr. Gilmartin said, “I am very much in agreement with the ESRI’s suggestion that a new mechanism for managing agricultural emissions in Ireland is needed.  A blunt focus on emissions reduction in Ireland could lead to more production being moved overseas, and Ireland will lose the potential to expand output and create jobs.  If this was to happen, the environmental benefits may be less than if production was kept within the EU, where cross-compliance and other measures ensure higher environmental standards.  New thinking is needed on the climate and emissions policies imposed on the sector.”

Sheep prices recovering, but weight limits still need to be lifted

6th June, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association Sheep Committee Chairman, Paul Brady, says factories have finally got the message on sheep prices.  

It’s being reported that farmers can get up to 30c/kg more today than what was being offered last week.  

Mr. Brady said, “ICSA has been voicing serious concern about sheep prices recently.  The situation simply could not continue and I am relieved to hear that the factories have listened and have started paying more realistic prices for stock.”

“However, farmers are still only getting paid up to 20kg.  This is far too severe of a weight limit and is seriously undermining the prices being paid.  We have already warned that plans for the expansion of sheep production under Food Harvest 2020 are questionable, given the recent trends in the market.  The factories must play their part in supporting sheep farming in Ireland if it’s to be sustained into the future,” Mr. Brady concluded.

Sheep prices mean Food Harvest 2020 is over – ICSA

1st June, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association says the targets set out under the Food Harvest 2020 Report for the sheep sector in Ireland are all but dead.

ICSA President, Gabriel Gilmartin, says, “the Report wants us to expand the output value of the sheep sector by 20% in the coming years.  However, the recent downward spiral in prices for sheep and lambs makes all talk of increased production seem ridiculous at this point.”  

“Speaking at our AGM late last year, the Minister for Agriculture said he was confident that the targets could be achieved, given favourable market conditions.  Well, that is certainly not the case anymore.  Farmers are getting horrendously low prices for their stock as a result of a fairly minor increase in numbers.  I would go as far as to say that the drive for expansion proposed by Food Harvest 2020 is all over for sheep farmers.”

ICSA Sheep Committee Chairman, Paul Brady, agrees.  “We have seen a relatively small increase in sheep throughput this year and it’s having a disastrous effect on prices.  At the moment they are hovering around the €4.85 mark for spring lambs.  That’s 16% lower than the price this time last year.”  

“However, the total number of sheep coming through is only up by 5.8% on a year to date basis compared to last year. ”  

“The 5.8% increase equates to somewhere between 38,000 and 40,000 extra sheep.  If the market can’t handle this, you have to ask – what’s the point in talking about further expansion under Food Harvest 2020?  It’s also worth noting that UK throughput is actually down 3.4% on last year.”

Mr. Brady added, “on top of this, factories are only paying up to 20 kilos, which in effect means farmers are actually getting far less.  At the current prices, a farmer selling a 22kg lamb is in fact only getting around €4.40/kg.  This is far too severe of a cut-off point and is making the whole business of selling sheep unsustainable in the extreme.  Especially when you take into consideration the fact that the weaker euro – currently worth 80 pence sterling – makes us more competitive than we have been for some time compared with Northern Irish and British lamb.”

ICSA President, Gabriel Gilmartin concluded, “While the targets under Food Harvest are laudable, the trends in the sheep market in recent weeks really calls into question whether increased production is desirable from a farmer’s viewpoint.”

Yes result puts onus on Government to negotiate strongly at EU level

1st June, 2012

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin has welcomed the outcome of the Referendum on the Fiscal Stability Treaty in favour of a Yes vote saying,  “it is the better outcome in terms of stability, but it also means that the Government has no hiding place when it comes to negotiating at EU level.”   

“The Yes result gives a mandate to the Government but it also puts the onus on them to get out and negotiate from a position of strength on all of the EU issues including the resolution of debt problems, a plan for growth and the need to sort out the EU budget for the 2014-2020 period.”

“The Government is now in a much stronger position when it comes to issues such as CAP reform as well.  It is clear that the farming community came through very strongly in favour of Yes and this must be kept in mind when the EU budget and CAP reform are being negotiated.”

ICSA urges extra caution regarding fire safety

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association Connaught/Ulster Vice President, John Flynn, is urging all members of the public to be extra vigilant when it comes to fire safety. 

Fires have broken out in a number of places in the area over the past number of days, in some cases causing extensive damage and costing huge amounts of money to deal with. 

John Flynn said, “I would urge everyone to be extremely careful when it comes to lighting any sort of fire in current conditions.  It’s frightening how quickly and easily a fire can spread and get out of control, putting people, animals and property at great risk.”

“The authorities have clearly stated that anyone who breaches fire regulations will be investigated and could face severe penalties – including loss of the single farm payment for farmers.” 

Mr. Flynn added, “it’s also vital that anyone who discovers a fire notifies the relevant authorities as quickly as possible so that damage is kept to a minimum.”

ICSA calls for reversal of cuts to factory beef weight limits

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association’s Beef Chairman, Edmond Phelan, says he is alarmed at proposals from some factories to reduce the upper weight limit on bulls. 

In some factories the upper weight limit is being cut down to 440kg, with talk of a possible limit of 380kg in certain cases. 

Edmond Phelan says that this is making it increasingly difficult for farmers to make a profit on their animals.  “At the end of the day, there is no point in selling a bull if there’s no profit in it – that makes the whole trade unviable.”

“Suckler farmers need to be getting in excess of €1,000 for their quality older weanlings, so the beef finishers have to be able to achieve a realistic end price from the factories.  If the factories insist on imposing these limits, there will be negative consequences for the trade as a whole.  More and more weanlings will be sent abroad as live exports, meaning less beef will be processed in Ireland.  This will have a direct effect on employment, on our ability to reach targets for beef production for Food Harvest 2020, and on efforts to open up new markets abroad for Irish beef.”

Mr. Phelan called on the factories to seriously reconsider these weight limits and explore more ways of securing premium prices for Irish beef on the market.

ICSA reacts angrily to student grant means test proposals

25th May 2012

President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association, Gabriel Gilmartin, has reacted angrily to proposed changes to the student grant means test.
Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn has announced that he expects a report in the summer, which will contain proposals for the inclusion of capital assets as well as income when calculating eligibility for the student grant.
Mr. Gilmartin says, “the ICSA is totally and utterly opposed to this.  If these changes are brought in, it would effectively discriminate against hard-working farming families wishing to send their children to third level education.”

“The National Farm Survey estimates for 2011, demonstrate that the average farm income reached an unprecedented high; however it is still relatively low compared with other sectors at €24,861.  However, there are significant variations in farm income.  In 2011, which was an exceptionally good year for farm income, only 15% of farmers exceeded €50,000, whereas 21% of farmers earned less than €5,000.”

“Even more significant is the fact that cattle and sheep farmers, who make up the bulk of farmers in Ireland, had an income of less than €31,000 on farms up to 250 acres in size.  Therefore, assets which appear to be substantial do not support significant income for the majority of farmers.  They are simply the tools of the trade.”

“A suckler farmer on a farm of 75-125 acres had, on average, income of some €14,000 in 2011.  Minister Quinn is proposing to eliminate third level education for these cattle and sheep farming families if this is allowed to go through.”
“What Minister Quinn is doing is simply choosing the easy target.  Farming is doing well at the moment but as we all know, this can change very quickly.  This ludicrous proposal clearly shows he is not in touch with the reality of the finances of most farming families in Ireland, where essential capital assets such as farm buildings and machinery do not equal money in the bank, and profit margins are tight.”
“The Minister has said that the best option for young people in the current economy is to remain in college for as long as possible – these measures fly in the face of that advice.”

Mr Gilmartin has called on all members of the Government parties to make clear where they stand on this issue and whether they are happy to prevent many farm families from aspiring to third level education for their children.