ICSA concerned about Government cutbacks on co-funding rural development

6th February, 2012

ICSA rural development chairman John Barron has expressed concern over government plans to avail of an EU concession to draw down rural development funds at an 85% co-funding rate rather than 50 or 55% as at present.  Mr Barron pointed out that this would lead to less funds being spent on rural development programmes such as LEADER and would facilitate the Government in winding down programmes such as the early retirement scheme, as well as dashing any prospects of reopening schemes such as the Young Farmer Installation aid.

“The key to understanding this is that the actual ceiling of EU money is fixed.  Therefore, when you switch to 85% EU funding/ 15% exchequer funding, rather than a 50:50 mix, the outcome is a substantially lower amount of co-funding from the Government, not a higher amount of EU funding.”

“My bigger concern is that the government is signalling its longer term intention to reduce all rural development funds.  While this decision only applies to Axes 1, 3 and 4, the message seems clear- Ireland is winding down exchequer funding for all future rural development schemes.  Although Axis 2, covering agri-environment schemes is unaffected for now, CAP negotiations for the post 2013 period are underway and we are trying to make the case for more rural development funding from the EU.”

“However, we have absolutely no credibility looking for increased or even similar levels of EU rural development funds if we are also saying that we can make do with less.  Even if we were to successfully negotiate higher RD funds from Europe, the risk is that the Government will want to retain the 85% rate of EU co-funding leading to a lower overall fund available for RD schemes.”  

Meanwhile, the effect of the decision on the current programme covering 2007-2013, is a €200 million reduction in spend in the rural economy. This cut is achieved by a reduction in the total amount of funding available under Axis 1 by some €87 million and by €113 million under Axes 3 and 4.  This is a huge cutback to rural communities all over the country and will have a substantial knock-on effect on the economy.

“Again, the Government has shown that it is heavy on austerity but light on job creation and economic stimulus,” concluded Mr Barron.

ICSA seminar to focus on sheep prospects

6th February, 2012

The prospects for the sheep trade is the focus of a major seminar next week which will feature speakers from Bord Bia, the UK based National Sheep Association, Kepak and the Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland.  The seminar, hosted by ICSA, will take place on Monday, February 13th in the Lord Bagenal Hotel, Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow.  Proceedings begin with lunch at 1pm, and the event will conclude at 5pm.

ICSA sheep chairman Paul Brady said that the upturn in sheep in 2011 had led to a renewed interest in the sector and it was vital for farmers to have a better understanding of where the business was going.  “The seminar will hopefully give solid answers to farmers who want to know what the prospects are in the short to medium term.

The line-up of speakers is:
• Declan Fennell, Sheep Specialist, Bord Bia
• Bob Cahill, Kepak, Hacketstown,
• Phil Stocker, Chief Executive, UK National Sheep Association
• Laz Murphy, Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland
• Eric Driver, Assistant Manager, Tullow Livestock Mart
• Catherine O’Leary, Veterinary Advisor, MSD Animal Health
• Gabriel Gilmartin, President, ICSA

The fee for the seminar is €15 (booked in advance, €20 on the day), which covers lunch, teas/ coffee and refreshments,  & conference papers.  Advance booking is essential, and ICSA is urging farmers to book as soon as possible as numbers are limited.

ICSA wishes to acknowledge the support and help of Kepak, MSD Animal Health Ireland, Nutribio/ CAHL, BFL Nutrition, Volac Ireland O’Donovan Engineering and Tullow Livestock Mart.

Factories continue to dictate pace as prices slip further

6th February 2012

Livestock Price Coordinator for the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), John Cleary, has said that factories are dictating prices being paid to farmers for stock by limiting the number of slaughter days and by making farmers book in cattle in advance. Mr. Cleary said that the top end quotes here are particularly difficult to achieve unless a farmer is selling a significant amount of stock.

For a good mix of steers, the base price being quoted is €3.90 – 4.00/kg, a further decrease of 5c from last week. Factories are quoting €4- €4.10/kg for heifers, a 5-10c tumble from last week. For a mix of U and R grade bulls, the base price is also €4.00 – €4.05/kg, a fall of 10c. Base price quotes for cows stand at €3.20-€3.65/kg, no change from week.

Commenting on this week’s trade, Mr. Cleary said: “Factories have once again taken the initiative to pull prices this week with steers, heifers and bulls all suffering falls this week. Cows are the only ones to have performed solidly this week. We have now seen week on week falls which is hard to bear for farmers. Factories have always began ‘appointment only’ killings now. It’s also hard to get the top end quotes and are only available for larger farmers. Farmers must also be aware that while nothing is certain, selling in a falling market only helps the factories and prices are expected to move upwards the less stock factories receive,” Mr. Cleary said.

ICSA calls for better factory prices for winter finishers

2nd February 2012

Newly elected Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) beef chairman, Edmond Phelan, has called on factories to halt the recent slide in prices as it is having an alienating effect on winter finishers.

Edmond Phelan: “Beef needs to be rising weekly during the winter finishing period but what we have seen is the exact opposite since the turn of the year. We have seen a week on week decrease with factories pulling prices. Prices have fallen back 20 – 30c for steers since January and this is simply unacceptable. This equates a loss of €50/€60 per head for the farmer. Factories are desperately looking for stock yet prices are being pulled. This smacks of somebody playing shenanigans. Beef finishers rely on a rising market during the winter period and the current trend cannot continue.

“In order to have a profitable farm, prices need to be rising at a penny a pound every week throughout the winter. Beef finishers are now looking at the possibility of holding off, putting the stock on grass until later in the summer until the prices return. If factories want to hold out on finishers, then two can play at that game,” Mr. Phelan said.

Monaghan farmers call for vigilance over tractor thefts

31st January, 2012

The Monaghan branch of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has today (31st January) urged vigilance amongst the farming community following the recent reports of tractor thefts in the county.

Jim Harrsion, member of the ICSA national executive, vice chairman of the ICSA suckler committee and farmer from Castleblayney, has said that vigilance as well as prevention is the only way to stop this growing trend. “It has gotten to a very worrying stage. Farmers are being directly targeted by criminals and the situation is particularly prevalent in Monaghan. In the last week alone, two tractors on the Monaghan – Armagh border were stolen from the same farm. There are also a number of notices in Ballybay mart by farmers offering rewards on information regarding their stolen tractor.

“Tractors are necessary pieces of equipment for every farmer in the country. Tractors are very expensive with a very high resale possibility meaning that they can be stolen and sold for huge profits within hours. Therefore farmers should be doing all within their power to protect their assets. Exploring the possibility of installing immobilisers in newer tractors or trackers in all machines can effectively negate the threat of criminals stealing them. Farmers and the wider rural community need to be especially vigilant in these times as we targets for thieves and we must be prepared to outsmart the criminals,” Mr. Harrison said.

ICSA not happy with disadvantaged area proposals

23rd January, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) national president Gabriel Gilmartin is concerned that the efforts to target disadvantaged area cuts at certain categories of farmers and landowners will create anomalies.  He emphasised that anomalies would be difficult to avoid and that the real problem is that the Government should not see the disadvantaged area scheme as a sitting duck for cutbacks.  “Successive cuts to the scheme by successive governments betray a failure to understand the importance of the scheme,” he claimed.

Regarding the details of the proposals, Mr Gilmartin said that the proposal to reduce DA payments to farmers with mixed holdings of disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged land would open a minefield of unfair cases.

“For example, this penalises the farmer who own farm is 100% disadvantaged but who has taken the initiative of renting non-disadvantaged land, usually in an effort to expand his herd or flock or ensure adequate winter fodder.”

He said that the 80 km rule was also contentious but he supported the concession that means that it won’t apply in the case of farmers whose main holding is disadvantaged.  “This depends on what is meant by main holding.  My view is that the main holding should be determined by where the herd number is established rather than by the size of the holding.”

However, Mr Gilmartin added that the objective of avoiding further cuts to the rate or to the maximum area for active farmers was essential and one that ICSA supported.

Quality over breed, advises ICSA

20th January, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) suckler chairman, Dermot Kelleher, has advised suckler farmers to prioritise the quality of the bull over the breed itself when choosing the best bull or AI for their cows.

Mr. Kelleher said “Farmers should not be overly concerned about the breed they’re putting on their cow, be it Limousin, Charolais, etc. Instead they should be more concerned about getting the top 10% – 15% from that breed to ensure excellent conformation as well having the best potential for weight gain. It’s important to look at the ratings for the AI or bull and then make a decision which would be best for the overall herd.

“It’s not beneficial to become overly preoccupied with choosing one breed over another, the farmer needs to do what’s best for the potential of the herd. Be it the bull or AI, you have to ensure that it’s the right one for the cow and the right one for breeding. Having one bad cow means one bad calf but a bad bull or series of bad AI choices will mean bad calves throughout the herd,” Mr. Kelleher concluded.

ICSA warns against revolutionary reform of CAP

18th January, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) president, Gabriel Gilmartin, has today (18th January) warned EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos that his proposed reforms of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) are far too revolutionary and far too disruptive to Irish farming. Mr. Gilmartin insisted that member states must be allowed the flexibility to implement a more acceptable evolution of the CAP.

Mr. Gilmartin said: “While there may be a welcome for a greener, more equitable CAP in theory, ICSA is concerned that, in practice, the Commissioner’s reforms are too revolutionary and will simply be unworkable in Ireland. The moving to a flat rate payment and the introduction of a greening top up has the potential to severely stunt the growth of successful and productive farms in the country.”

Mr. Gilmartin also emphasised that harsh cuts on farms on the overall farm payment was not viable: “We cannot have a fair reform that imposes severe cuts on family-sized farms. Due to spiralling input costs, the average farmer is now more reliant than ever on their single farm payment (SFP) from the EU. Strong factory prices are being counteracted by the rising costs of fuel and other operational costs therefore excessive cuts in the SFP has the potential to drive farm families out of agriculture.”

Beef prices increase despite the attempts of factories, sheep prices jump

16th January, 2012

Despite the attempts of factories to shave up to 5c off quotes, beef prices have again been strong in the past week due a shortage of stock according to the Livestock Price Coordinator for the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA). John Cleary also said that farmers should now be prepared for tougher negotiations from factories but those willing to do so will get the best prices.

For a good mix of steers, the base price being quoted is €4.10 – 4.15/kg, a further increase of 10c from last week. Factories are quoting €4.20- €4.30/kg for heifers, a slight increase on last week For a mix of U and R grade bulls, the base price is also €4.20/kg, roughly the same quotes from last week  Base price quotes for cows stand at €3.35-€3.65/kg. This is a rise of nearly 20c, a significant rise for cows for this time of the year.

Commenting on this week’s trade, Mr. Cleary said: “There had been significant talk over this past week that factories had been doing all they could to pull prices by as much as 5c this week but this failed to materialise due a shortage of stock once again coming into the factory the floor. The return of the marts in the past couple of weeks has resulted in a surge in prices being paid at some ringsides by factories for stock but they are still desperately trying to locate stock and this looks set to be the case for the foreseeable. Farmers with quality stock should be prepared to bargain hard with factories for prices if the rumours of price pulling continues.”

Scarcity was the explanation given for a jump in prices last week for sheep but further shortages has resulted in another 10c increase. Prices for lambs up to 23.5kg are €5.30/kg. Ewes are being quoted €3.20/kg.

ICSA says Zone C farmers must be allowed to begin slurry spreading

13th January, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) national president Gabriel Gilmartin has said that farmers in the Zone C counties must be allowed to begin slurry spreading immediately.  Under the Nitrates Directive, these farmers are not permitted to spread slurry until 1st February.

“These farmers, in Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan are prevented from taking advantage of the good weather forecast for the rest of the week by mindless bureaucracy.  They were also caught out with very poor weather in the latter half of 2011 and even though there was an extension to October 31st, this was of no use due to inclement weather at the time.

“I am calling for derogation for the farmers in Zone C to be allowed to begin spreading immediately.  This is now an animal welfare issue with the risk of slurry coming up through the slats in some cases.  We must take the worry out of slurry.”