ICSA reiterates difficulties of ‘calendar farming’ in Nitrates Action Programme submission

13th June, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has reiterated the urgent need to review the issue of ‘calendar farming’ in its submission on Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme. Submissions on the issue were sought by the Departments of Agriculture and the Environment as part of the second review of the Action Programme.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin explains that the Association used the opportunity to once again highlight the futility of setting strict dates and deadlines for crucial farming practices in Ireland. “Given the extremely difficult conditions experienced by Irish farmers over the past 18 months, it is now beyond doubt that the notion that farming activity can be restricted by dates on a calendar, rather than by the prevailing weather and ground conditions, must be recognised as nonsense.”

Examples of this are highlighted by Teagasc studies and noted by ICSA in the submission, available here. The submission also contains a number of recommendations from ICSA as to how the system can be improved, while remaining in compliance with the Nitrates Directive.

Mr Gilmartin concluded, “ICSA has been increasingly vocal about the very real difficulties caused by calendar farming. It is problematic from a farming point of view and, importantly, from an environmental point of view as well. It is very clear that farming decisions must be guided by weather and ground conditions, not dates on a calendar.”

ICSA calls on Department to put Minister Hayes in charge of fodder crisis fall-out

5th June, 2013

President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association, Gabriel Gilmartin, has welcomed the appointment of Tom Hayes TD as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and has called for his deployment to deal with the ongoing fall-out from the fodder crisis.

Mr Gilmartin said, “ICSA wants a task force set up, which could be chaired by Minister Hayes, to deal with fodder-related issues including cash flow problems on farms, securing enough feed for next winter and managing the damage done to land, as well as dealing with mental health issues in the farming community.”

ICSA welcomes appointment of Tom Hayes as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture

5th June, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has welcomed the appointment of Tipperary South TD Tom Hayes as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said, “I would like to wish Minister Hayes the best in his new role and ICSA looks forward to working with him for the betterment of Irish agriculture into the future.”

ICSA: Fall in sheep prices ‘unjustified and unacceptable’

30th May, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has described the current low prices being paid by factories for sheep as “totally unjustified and unacceptable.”

ICSA national sheep chair, Paul Brady, sharply criticised the price cuts in recent days. “The prices I’m being quoted are frankly shocking and I see absolutely no justification for them. Despite what the factories are saying, there is not an oversupply at the moment – in fact, the factories are actively looking for sheep to fulfil demand. To have the prices so low makes no sense.”

Mr Brady outlined, “Across the board, there appears to have been an average price drop of between 40c and 70c per kg in the last seven to eight days – with spring lambs down as far as €5.70 or €5.80 per kg. This is all happening at a time when factories can’t get enough sheep in the door and procurement officers are very busy on the phone looking for produce, so the normal rules of supply and demand don’t seem to be at play here. The fact that hoggets and lambs are being quoted at or near the same price is inconsistent with claims of impending oversupply and we know that there is a good demand for handy hoggets owing to the shortage of spring lambs.”

“Once again we are looking at a situation where sheep farmers are clearly not getting a fair price for their produce and ICSA is saying to the factories that this is simply unacceptable,” Mr Brady concluded.

ICSA urges motorists to be vigilant on the roads as farming activity increases

30th May, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is urging motorists to be extra careful on the roads as farming activity goes up a gear as a result of the good weather.

ICSA’s Connaught/Ulster vice president and spokesperson on health and safety issues, John Flynn, said, “With the fine weather comes an upsurge in farming activity, particularly work involving tractors and other heavy machinery. I would urge those involved in farm work and all other road users to put safety first at all times and to be extremely vigilant.”

ICSA welcomes Minister’s support for See Change Partnership

May 27th 2013

ICSA Rural Development Chairman John Barron has welcomed the news that Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, T.D. has joined with ICSA and other farm organisations in support of See Change, the national mental health stigma reduction partnership which aims to encourage open discussion of mental health among Irish farmers. Mr Barron said “2013 has already proven to be an extraordinarily difficult years for farmers, with the fodder crisis putting enormous strain on many people’s mental health. Minister Coveney’s support of the See Change Partnership is to be greatly welcomed. ICSA will continue to work with its See Change partners in working against the stigma of mental health.”

The ICSA Policy Committee has noted that the promotion of mental wellbeing is of key importance in rural communities, particularly when farming conditions become difficult. The stigma surrounding mental health problems can act as a significant issue for Irish farmers, often preventing people from seeking the help that they need.

ICSA Policy Officer Geoff Hamilton pictured with Minister Coveney at the launch of the collaboration between the Department of Agriculture, See Change and the Farm Organisations, May 2013.

ICSA supported the nationwide Green Ribbon campaign during May 2013. ICSA President Gabriel Gilmartin commented “We are all aware of the stresses of daily farming life, but during times of additional pressure due to fodder shortages, weather, isolation, finance or family problems, our mental health needs to be looked after. I urge all members of the farming community to be aware of their own mental health, as well as that of their family, friends, employees and neighbours, and where there is a concern, to reach out and seek help from the numerous support agencies around the country.”

For more information on the ICSA – See Change partnership, click here.

ICSA response to the fodder crisis

Fodder Crisis: ICSA’s early intervention

ICSA presdident Gabriel Gilmartin was the first farm leader to respond to the the looming fodder crisis when he visited some of the worst hit farmers in West Cork in August 2012.  Farms on heavy, marginal land in that area were suffering acutely from the extremely wet summer and in many places, no silage at all had been cut by late August.  ICSA’s West Cork chairman, Dermot Kelleher, who is himself farming in that area, had been vocal about the problems being experienced there which led to the ICSA leader’s visit.  

(L-R) ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin, ICSA national executive member and local farmer Joe Burke,
and ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch at a waterlogged farm near Bantry in August
W Cork - cattle
ICSA West Cork chairman Dermot Kelleher (in the red) showing ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin
and general secretary Eddie Punch the conditions at a farm near
Dunmanway, where cattle had been housed since July due to the rainfall

ICSA then took action to try and alleviate the pressure on the worst-hit farms in the West Cork area; sourcing top-quality bales from Co. Kildare and delivering them to to West Cork – ICSA subsidising the cost of transport to keep the cost to the farmers as low as possible.  

 ICSA Fodder to Cork 01  dbhay4

ICSA secures discount on Stena Line sailings for fodder trucks

21st May, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has welcomed a move by ferry company Stena Line to offer preferential rates on Stena’s Irish Sea crossings to hauliers who are importing fodder through a special ICSA scheme.

The preferential rates came about following a meeting between a delegation from ICSA, led by president Gabriel Gilmartin, and senior Stena representatives in Dublin yesterday. Following the meeting, Mr Gilmartin said, “Stena expressed a great deal of empathy with the situation being faced by our members and were keen to work with us to help alleviate the pressure on farmers.”

“Over the past number of weeks, the major stumbling block has been the transport issue. Good quality bales of hay are available in large quantities in England and France, but we simply cannot bring them into Ireland fast enough. This very welcome step by Stena Line will hopefully make a big difference to the continuing efforts to get fodder moving to those places that still urgently need it,” the ICSA leader said.

Hauliers should first contact the ICSA National Office on 057 8662120 for details of how to avail of the reduced rates.

ICSA: National Farm Survey highlights precarious situation on cattle and sheep farms

14th May, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association says the preliminary estimates under the National Farm Survey show that the viability of cattle and sheep farms is very precarious. ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said, “It is clear that these farms are particularly vulnerable to any cuts in direct payments because direct payments are so vital to actual family farm income.”

“Whereas direct payments contributed 32 per cent of dairy farm incomes, they account for 132 per cent of cattle, 118 per cent of suckler and 118 per cent of sheep incomes. While the percentage fall in dairy incomes is highest at 24 per cent, the 8-11 per cent fall in cattle and sheep incomes is from a very low base.”

“The reality is that average incomes are €11,743, €17,621 and €16,898 on suckler, cattle and sheep farms respectively, compared with €51,648 for dairy farms.”

“This demonstrates the importance of ensuring that the Single Payment for low income cattle and sheep farmers must be protected to the greatest extent possible. It also highlights the reality that Pillar 2 rural development money must be directed to the greatest extent possible to the low income cattle and sheep sectors under the CAP reform. It also has to be taken into account when considering how to handle rural development funding in the interim 2014 period,” Mr. Gilmartin concluded.

ICSA reminds farmers: Single Farm Payment form must be a priority

10th May, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is urging all farmers to submit their completed Single Farm Payment forms ahead of the deadline on Wednesday (15th May).

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said, “The Single Farm Payment is important every year but I think we will see farmers more reliant on it this year than they have been in a long time. Massive feed bills are mounting every day as a direct result of the bad weather so I foresee this year’s payment being absolutely crucial to the viability of many farms.”

“Late submission of the forms will attract financial penalties so I would urge all farmers to make completion of the Single Farm Payment forms a priority over the coming days if they haven’t done so already. Every year farmers lose out on significant amounts of money due to late application – losses which could easily be avoided. Amendments can be made after the deadline so the important thing is to get the form in on time.”

Mr Gilmartin added, “I would also remind everyone that you can no longer hand the paper form into your local DVO so bear that in mind when submitting it. ICSA has already pointed to the fact that the online service is simply not a viable option for many farmers and so I would call on the Minister to realise the folly of not allowing them to be handed in locally and review the situation for next year’s round of applications.”