ICSA CAP committee chair responds to CAP deal delay

9th November, 2012

ICSA CAP chairman Billy Gray said, “the fact that the European Parliament response to the CAP proposals is not going to be concluded until early 2013 means that 2014 is now almost certainly not a reference year for the new system.  It also means that the new system is unlikely to commence until 2015.

Farmers need to be aware of this because many farmers are gambling on 2014 in terms of renting land and this may now turn out to be futile.  While farmers with higher payments will probably hope that the old system will now apply in 2014, the problem is that we need some certainty for the longer term.  The longer it takes to get a deal, the more the risk that we don’t get the result we need.”

Gilmartin expresses concern at confirmation of Schmallenberg in Co. Cork

30th October, 2012

President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association, Gabriel Gilmartin, has expressed concern at the confirmation today of the presence of the Schmallenberg virus in a bovine foetus in Co. Cork.  

Mr. Gilmartin said, “It is very disappointing that the disease has turned up in Ireland.  It is important to note that the virus does not present any danger to human health, nor does it have any food safety implications, so there is no need for concern among consumers and the general public.”

“However, there is a real concern that farmers may face an increase in the number of abortions in cows and sheep, which is distressing and may have a financial impact.  I would urge all farmers to be extremely vigilant, and also to be cautious if they are importing any livestock, as the virus has been identified in 10 countries across Europe to date,” concluded Mr. Gilmartin.

ICSA pre-Budget submission: Agriculture must be supported as a key element of economic recovery

•    Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme must continue in its entirety and remain fully funded
•    Installation aid fund of €10 million must be established immediately for trained, young farmers
•    Carbon tax & excise duties hurting agriculture & must be reviewed
•    Vital DAS must not be cut
•    50% stock relief must be available to all farmers

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has launched its pre-Budget submission, calling for funding to support young farmers, an immediate suspension of the carbon tax and a continuation of the vital Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme. 
The document – Ireland’s Agriculture: A Key Part of our Economic Recovery – outlines the crucial role of agri-business in the effort to reverse the downturn, and highlights a number of key points necessary for progress both nationally and within the farming sector.  In it, ICSA warns that in the absence of the ability to provide fiscal stimulus, the Government must strive to ‘do no harm’ to the industry.

Commenting on the recommendations within the document, ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin highlighted the organisation’s key concerns for Budget 2013.  “Within the confines of the Croke Park Agreement, the Government has been largely focussed on reducing public sector staff numbers, rather that tackling pay.  There is therefore a disproportionate level of cuts being made to vital schemes, including farming schemes, frontline services and capital investment.  This is unsustainable and the Government must tackle increments and allowances in the public sector.  Farmers could rightly argue that payments such as DAS and REPS form part of their ‘core pay’, but it would fall on deaf ears.  There is an issue of fairness here and both Ministers in the Department of Finance must face up to it.”

Mr. Gilmartin said taxation is a major issue and caution is needed, particularly with capital taxes.  “For example, given the increase in the rate and lowering of the threshold for CAT in Budget 2012, there is no room for any further increases in Capital Acquisitions Tax.  Farm development and viability could be undermined and that would be incredibly counter-productive in the long run, in terms of export targets.  With regard to Capital Gains Tax, we are calling for the reversal of the measure contained in Budget 2012 which introduced an upper limit of €3 million for CGT retirement relief, where the farmer handing transferring farm land and assets is aged over 66.  ICSA sees this as a rather bizarre move and does not reflect the reality that while early transfer is desirable in certain circumstance, it is not always possible.”

“We are also hugely concerned that the taxes on fuel are damaging to the sector.  “Anecdotally, the high excise duty and the carbon tax combined are leading to curtailed fuel usage and the purchase of fuel outside of Ireland, which is bad news for the Exchequer.  What we are saying is that the Minister should seriously consider reducing excise duty on fuel and suspending the carbon tax for a year to see what effect it has on the Exchequer.”

Mr. Gilmartin said the setting up of a €10 million installation aid fund to support trained young farmers is badly needed.  “The targets for Food Harvest 2020 are ambitious.  We will need to support and encourage young farmers in order to achieve the levels of production envisaged in the report.  It is also extremely important that the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme and DAS are protected from cuts, because their importance to many livestock farmers cannot be overstated.  Also, the new AEOS needs to be such that it has the scope to allow the maximum number of farmers leaving REPS to enter it.”

“The fact is that the Department of Agriculture has, as we see it, already made a huge effort in expenditure cuts.  In addition, we would urge the Government not to lose sight of the fact that the farming sector, as an export-orientated industry driving a significant part of our economic recovery, must be nurtured rather than hindered.  We accept that the ideal scenario of a fiscal stimulus for the sector is not possible.  That being the case, we are calling for the Goverment to ‘do no harm’ and avoid imposing further contraction on farming,” Mr. Gilmartin concluded.

ICSA Budget 2013 Submission-1

Download ICSA’s full Pre-Budget Submission here
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Further slurry extension welcome, but highlights need to remove deadline altogether

26th October, 2012

Thousands of farmers will be relieved to hear that the deadline for spreading slurry has been further extended by two weeks, however it only serves to highlight the futility of setting strict timelines for essential, weather-dependent farming activities, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association.

Commenting on the announcement made by Minister Phil Hogan this morning, that farmers would, in certain circumstances, be able to spread slurry until November 16th without incurring penalties, ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said, “While I welcome the fact that more time has been granted to hard-pressed farmers to empty their slurry tanks, I will again reiterate ICSA’s firm stance that the closing date for this type of work must be done away with altogether.  We are having better, drier weather now, at the end of October, than we had for the entire summer season.  Year after year we see more evidence that setting arbitrary deadlines for weather-dependent work simply doesn’t make sense.  I sincerely hope that 2012 is the year that this finally gets through to the authorities.”

Mr. Gilmartin has sounded a note of concern about the terms and conditions attached to the extension.  “I am particularly concerned that the requirement to notify the Department of Agriculture prior to spreading during the extended period is overly bureaucratic and adds unnecessary complication to the process.  Another condition that worries me is the requirement to only spread the “least amount required” to give farmers sufficient capacity in their slurry tanks to last until the end of the closed period, which is 1 January for Zones A and B, and 15 January for Zone C.  I question how the Department can predict that there will be suitable spreading conditions in January.  We may not be able to spread again until February or March next year if the weather is bad.  A realistic approach must be taken on this and farmers must be allowed to spread as much slurry as they can to avoid animal welfare problems over the winter.”

The details of how farmers can notify the Department of their intention to spread slurry from 1 November can be found here.

ICSA says tackling the wildlife issue is the best way to cut TB eradication costs

23rd October, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association says that dealing with the wildlife issue head-on will provide the best and quickest return on the money spent on eradicating bovine TB, following a meeting with Department of Agriculture officials during which proposed cuts to the existing TB eradication scheme were outlined.  
ICSA Rural Development chairman John Barron said, “ICSA is very willing to engage with the Department on worthwhile ways to save money on the scheme.  It’s hugely important to strive to rid the country of this disease and I have always felt that there was a certain amount of wastage inherent in the scheme, so I’m happy to see efforts being made to use the limited resources as efficiently as possible.”
“However, I have serious concerns with a number of the proposed money-saving measures outlined at the meeting.  First of all, the proposal to abolish independent valuations of infected cattle in cases where there is only one reactor in the herd is unacceptable.  Independent valuation of all reactors is a core principle of the TB eradication scheme which farmers fought hard to secure.  It simply cannot be eroded in any way and ICSA will fight against any such proposal.”
“I also have a serious problem with the idea that farmers would face a new, additional charge of €22.50 per head for the collection of reactors, which the Department says is equivalent to half the cost to them of the transport of the animals.  The fact that the Department currently pays €45 per head is ludicrous.  If they want to save money on the transport costs, they should first negotiate a far better deal with the hauliers, before even contemplating burdening farmers with a substantial new charge, which would be unfair and disproportionate to say the least.”  
“I would also call into question whether some of these measures are simply a way of getting farmers to shoulder the cost of the likes of the four-month testing arrangement in the case of contiguous breakdowns.  It seems to me that the heat is being turned up on agriculture since the Government failed so miserably to make any meaningful savings in the area of public sector allowances and ICSA will not stand by and let that continue.”  
Mr. Barron concluded, “I would reiterate that the most important point is to address the wildlife issue head-on.  That’s the best way to fully eradicate the disease from this country and if that was achieved, then the cost-cutting problem would be completely solved.  I would urge the Minister and his officials to seriously consider how best to spend the money allocated to TB eradication without increasing the financial pressure on farmers.”

ICSA increases pressure to scrap slurry spreading deadline

23rd October, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is applying further pressure on the authorities to scrap the deadline for slurry spreading, which ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin describes as “unworkable, unrealistic nonsense.”

“I understand, as do all farmers, that the slurry spreading regulations are in place in an attempt to safeguard the environment – however, in my view, particularly now after one of the wettest summers in years and more torrential rain in the last few days, forcing farmers to spread slurry before a certain date, no matter what the conditions to comply with regulations has the potential to cause more environmental harm than good.”

The original deadline of October 15th was extended by two weeks this year as a result of the exceptionally heavy rainfall during the summer months.  However, ICSA has long argued that this is not an adequate solution to the problem, and that there must be a complete revision of the concept of ‘farming by calendar.’

“We must be allowed to use weather patterns and ground conditions as the determining factors in carrying out our work.  Farmers who are now under pressure to empty their slurry tanks in order to protect their Single Farm Payment are being forced to go against their better judgement and spread the slurry in totally unsuitable conditions.”

“At all times, farmers are working and planning with a close eye on the weather and ground conditions in order to comply with best farming practice in terms of efficiency, animal welfare and environmental concerns.  This artificial deadline goes against all that, and I cannot understand why the legislators refuse to accept this fact.”

Mr. Gilmartin concluded, “As well as that, this situation is putting enormous mental pressure on farmers and their families.  Farmers must be allowed to do what they can, when they can, according to the prevailing weather conditions.  That means, in no uncertain terms, that the unworkable, unrealistic nonsense of strict deadlines for essential farm activities such as slurry spreading must end now.”

Advance payment must be made to as many farmers as possible

10th October, 2012

President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association, Gabriel Gilmartin, has welcomed the news that the advance payment of the Single Farm Payment will take place as planned next week (Tuesday, 16th October).  

However, Mr. Gilmartin stressed that it is crucial that the maximum number of farmers receive the advance payment, to alleviate financial pressure caused by the bad weather over the past number of months.  

“Getting 50 per cent of their annual Single Farm Payment next Tuesday will be a huge relief to farmers up and down the country.  I am calling on the Minister to make sure that as many farmers as possible receive the advance – including farmers that are still waiting on cross-compliance checks.  I would argue that any deductions that need to be made can be taken from the remaining payment, due in December.”

“Bearing in mind that farmers are now planning ahead for winter fodder shortages and buying extra feed where needed, the Minister must do what he can to ensure that cashflow is maximised at this time.”

Public CAP Forums

CAP reform – Your voice matters!

During October, November and December, ICSA will be hosting a series of public meetings where farmers will be given the opportunity to raise questions and drive debate on what CAP reform means for Irish farming.

Dates, times and locations will be listed on this page as they are confirmed.

Please check back here for updates.

Ciolos visit: ICSA emphasises need to finalise CAP budget urgently

21st September, 2012

ICSA president, Gabriel Gilmartin, emphasised to EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos on a visit to Ardee, Co. Louth today that the CAP Budget must be finalised as soon as possible.  

Speaking from Ardee, Mr. Gilmartin said, “The CAP Budget needs to be finalised very soon – and at the very least, the level of support for farmers must be maintained in real terms, taking inflation into account.”

Mr. Gilmartin said the visit by Commissioner Ciolos to Ireland is very appropriate, because Ireland holds the key to brokering a deal on the new CAP.  “I would urge the Commissioner to be flexible in his approach to the CAP talks, and to accept that a flat rate by 2019 won’t work in Ireland.  This would maximise the chances of getting the deal done under the Irish presidency of the EU next year.”

ICSA to emphasise importance of approximation approach to Ciolos

17th September, 2012

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin is to emphasise to Commissioner Ciolos that the “approximation approach” to CAP reform put forward by Ireland and supported by several other states is the only realistic way of achieving an acceptable outcome to CAP reform talks.  Mr. Gilmartin was speaking in advance of the visit to Ireland by EU Farm Commissioner Dacian Ciolos next Friday where he will be welcomed to Ardee by EU MEP, Mairead McGuinness.  

“From the very start, ICSA has been clear that the flat rate might sound good in theory but it cannot work in practice in the Irish context.  ICSA has also emphasised that there can be no going back to the old coupled payments which were ideal for factories but disastrous for prices.  

“It is therefore clear that the approximation approach which means significant reductions only for those with the highest payments, and very minor adjustments for farmers who are marginally above the average is the only acceptable compromise.  Going to a flat rate by 2019 would totally destroy the viability of many of our most productive farmers.  On the other hand, the approximation approach frees up the possibility for better payments for young and active farmers below the average to get a worthwhile increase.”