ICSA: Beef farmers should not accept a cut in prices

25th January, 2013

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association beef committee chairman, Edmond Phelan, says beef farmers should not accept any cut in prices for their cattle from factories.  “I have heard of some cases where factories are attempting to pull the prices down, despite ongoing strong demand.  With meal bills coming in and having paid dearly for stores, some winter finishers are looking at significant losses so what we need is for prices to be rising week on week, not coming down.”
Mr Phelan said, “Demand for Irish beef is still good, notwithstanding the present difficulties the industry is embroiled in.  Farmers should simply not accept a reduction in the prices being paid for their cattle at this point in time.”

Burger King announcement a worrying development

23rd January, 2013

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president Gabriel Gilmartin has described Burger King’s decision to change its meat supplier as “a worrying development, which emphasises the need for the industry to learn the lessons from the horse DNA controversy.”
“Irish meat processors have built up great businesses based on using fully traceable, grass-based Irish beef.  Tests have confirmed that the current problems do not originate from Irish farms but from imported trace ingredients.”  
“Therefore, it should be a priority for all concerned to win back the Burger King business and reassure all other consumers by using only 100% Irish ingredients until the recent issues with imported ingredients have been fully explained and understood.”

Quality Assurance must be reviewed in light of burger scandal

18th January, 2013

Edmond Phelan, beef chairman of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association, said that in light of the current crisis, a review of the beef quality assurance schemes – and the strategy behind them – is now necessary.  

“It’s very frustrating for farmers who are made to jump through all the hoops in terms of traceability to see major shortcomings further down the production line.  Worse, many farmers have voluntarily gone further by joining the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme, which sets a still higher standard and exposes them to even more inspections and expense.”  

“ICSA is now asking hard questions about the focus of the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme.  We believe the spotlight must be switched to the processing plants to address the potential faults there.  In addition, there seems to be some arbitrary rules linked to the BQAS, which make no sense when you see where the real problems lie.”

“One of the most objectionable rules, which apparently is a requirement of supermarkets, is the absurd rule which effectively means that cattle bought in a mart are not eligible.  When a farmer brings a well-fleshed animal to a mart, many potential buyers are hampered by the fact that they have to keep the animal for 70 days to qualify for the BQAS.  This is meaningless bureaucracy, which limits farmers’ options.”

“The fact that a farmer is paid 6c/kg less if their animal is even a day over 30 months old is another random and arbitrary rule.  Farmers will be getting less tolerant of meaningless bureaucracy such as this, when they see it all undermined by the shortcomings further down the line.”  

Mr Phelan said that he is still absolutely in favour of the BQAS scheme and fully supportive of Bórd Bia; but he said, “Supermarkets and processors are going to have to look more closely at themselves instead of spending all their time imposing terms and conditions on farmers.”

ICSA: Answers needed on why we need to import burger ingredients

17th January, 2013

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) president Gabriel Gilmartin has expressed further concern that the latest test results of samples from the Silvercrest plant, indicate the presence of equine DNA.

Mr Gilmartin said that it was significant that the only raw material sample, which tested positive, was from another member state.  “It now looks increasingly like the problem is linked to imported raw materials.  We need answers on why there is any need for imported ingredients in burgers when Ireland is the biggest exporter of beef in the Northern hemisphere.” 

Mr Gilmartin added that all meat processing plants should now ensure that they suspend the use of any imported material in meat products until this crisis is over.

ICSA: How much of the burger is Irish?

16th January, 2013

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president Gabriel Gilmartin has called on the processing plants involved in the horse DNA controversy to explain what proportion of their burgers consists of imported product.  

“Suspicions are growing among Ireland’s beef farmers that the Irish beef content of burgers is being reduced with a view to keeping prices down.  This concern has arisen because of the explanation that the horse DNA is linked to imported product.  Are the imports limited to trace ingredients, gelling agents or flavourings or are they actually imports of meat which is making up a substantial portion of the burger?”

“The Minister needs to ensure that these facts are clarified in his investigation but in the meantime, I am calling on the factories to be open with their explanation.  How much of the burger is Irish?”  

Mr Gilmartin added that there was growing unease among farmers that the high standards that they adhere to and the scrutiny that they are put under is not being matched elsewhere in the food chain.

ICSA concerned about horse DNA traces

15th January, 2013

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin has said that he is “very concerned at the FSAI statement that horse DNA was detected in certain products including beef burgers produced by Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods.”

“It is too early to say how this has come about.  It has to be stressed that there is no safety issue but it is clearly unacceptable if there is any doubt about the provenance or the content of a beef burger. There is some suggestion from the FSAI that DNA traces emanate from raw materials imported from other EU countries.

It would be totally outrageous if meat factories have tried to cut corners rather than using 100% Irish beef in their products.   

“Farmers will feel that the Department of Agriculture needs to spend more time inspecting and monitoring processors and less time on farms.  ICSA urges Minister Coveney to instigate a full investigation immediately.” 

Government must take every opportunity to push for deal on EU Budget

10th January, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is calling for more urgency on the issue of securing a deal on the overall EU Budget.

As the president of the European Commission and the 26 commissioners attend the official launch event of the Irish presidency of the Council of the EU in Dublin, ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin urged Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Cabinet to press for progress on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) which must be agreed before any deal can done on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).  

Mr Gilmartin said, “It was hugely disappointing that the Budget talks broke down in late November last year without agreement.  The ideal scenario would be to finalise the CAP deal before the end of Ireland’s presidency – for this to happen, we need to see an EU budget in place very soon.”

“Because the CAP is so important to the Irish economy and to Irish farmers, it must be an absolute priority for the Government to push for agreement on the MFF as early as possible in the coming months,” Mr Gilmartin concluded.

ICSA: sheep kills underline need for compulsory microchipping of dogs

9th January, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has renewed its call for the introduction of compulsory microchipping for all dogs, in light of a number of extremely distressing dog attacks on sheep in several parts of the country.  

ICSA sheep committee chairman Paul Brady said, “There has been a worrying number of horrific incidents of dogs killing and seriously injuring sheep, including pregnant ewes, in recent weeks.  Apart from the pain and stress inflicted on the animals, each one of these attacks represents serious distress and financial loss to the farmer involved and it is now beyond doubt that action is needed to address the problem of out-of-control dogs.”

“ICSA has argued several times that the correct solution is to change the legislation, to allow for the introduction of compulsory microchipping of all dogs.  This would also bring our law into line with the law in Northern Ireland, where all dogs must be microchipped.  Microchipping is already used by most responsible dog owners for traceability purposes.  It must be emphasised that this system would need to be backed up by a well-organised central database monitored by a State authority.”

Mr Brady said, “Out-of-control dogs can be highly dangerous in a number of ways.  Apart from the sheep attacks, we heard of several incidents of dogs attacking children last year.  Every year thousands of dogs are put down in pounds across Ireland because their owners cannot be traced.  Microchipping helps local councils and wardens to deal with dangerous dogs which pose a danger to everyone, as well as providing a reliable traceability system.”

“ICSA sees this as the best solution to this highly emotive and distressing problem.  We are confident that those who truly value their pets and working dogs will see this as a progressive initiative, designed to safeguard dogs and prevent distress, injury and death.”

No simple solution to farm fatalities

4th January, 2013

ICSA spokesman on farm safety and Connaught Ulster vice president John Flynn said that the Health and Safety Authority 2012 figures for farm fatalities, which show 21 people lost their lives in farming related accidents, were a tragic reminder to farmers to prioritise farm safety in 2013.  

Mr Flynn pointed out that the nature of farming and the make-up of the farming population means that comparisons with other sectors are facile.  “While we must continue to strive to reduce accidents, the reality is that the safety record on Irish farms compares favourably with other EU countries.  No matter what we do, a farm will always be a more challenging environment than an office in terms of hazard.”

“The challenge is all the more difficult because of the age structure.  While in other working environments, people tend to retire at 65 or younger, we find that over 40% of fatalities on farms in 2012 involved individuals aged over 65.  In fact, almost 25% of fatal accidents involved people aged over 70, and 10% of fatal accidents involved people aged over 85 still out and working on farms.”  

“While every accident is tragic, it is also the case that many older farmers find that working on farms keeps them interested in life, and much fitter than if they simply stayed at home by the fire or retired to a nursing home.  Ideally of course, we must continue to strive towards a younger farming population but there are no quick solutions to this problem.”

Mr Flynn said that there was a wide range of causes of the farm fatalities in 2012.  “One thing that is always a danger is a cow after calving.  Farmers need to be extra careful.  It is not always easy when there is a newborn calf that needs feeding and perhaps we should be looking at the rural development funds to provide support for the installation of better calving and handling facilities on farm.”

ICSA calls for realistic support scheme for suckler farmers

4th January, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association suckler committee chairman, Dermot Kelleher, is criticising the Minister for Agriculture’s decision to end the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme, fearing it will have a detrimental effect on the development of genetic data for the industry and will have repercussions for weanling welfare.  

The €25 million Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme (SCWS) was replaced in the most recent Budget by a new Beef Data Programme (BDF).  The payment per cow under the new programme is just half the €40 paid out last year under the SCWS – and is capped at a maximum of 20 cows, or €400.  

“The end of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme is a disaster.  The Beef Data Programme which has been set up as a replacement is a mere shadow of what was a hugely beneficial scheme which was providing excellent value for money for the Government,” Mr Kelleher said.

“Many top class suckler farmers will not take part in the Beef Data Programme because the increased risk of inspections and the paperwork involved is simply not worth the return they can expect under it.  This will have huge consequences because the genetic data gathered during the lifetime of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme has been of enormous benefit to the sector.  I fear that a significant fall-off in the level of data being gathered will set the development of the suckler industry back by years.”

“I very much hope that farmers will continue to send in their information, but to ensure this, the Minister needs to reverse the decision to end the SCWS, or alternatively to put a realistic payment in place.  As it stands, a farmer with 40 suckler cows who was receiving €1,600 has been cut to €400.”

Mr Kelleher added that there is also a worry about the welfare aspect of the suckler industry going forward.  “There has also been a total withdrawal of support for weanling welfare.  There is a danger now that less than ideal weaning methods could creep back in and ultimately that could damage the industry as a whole in terms of live exports.”

“The solution to this is to reinstate the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme, or make decent provision for the suckler herd under a new scheme.  The Minister and the Government must understand this.” Mr Kelleher concluded.