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.”

ICSA anger at revival of EU beneficiaries list

17th September, 2012

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin has expressed disbelief that the EU Commission is reviving the discredited policy of publishing the names and amounts of EU supports received by each farmer.  Previously, the EU Commission had obliged member states to publish the amounts received by each farmer but in November 2010 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had thrown this out as “partially invalid” because it failed to balance the rights of individuals against the objectives of transparency.  

Mr Gilmartin said, “It is unbelievable that the EU Commission is going back to this discredited invasion of privacy and it shows a complete contempt for the ECJ.  It is amazing that when an ECJ decision has negative implications for farmers, member states and the Commission jump over hoops to enforce the decision but when the ECJ goes in favour of farmers the Commission bends over backwards to circumvent it.”

“While the Commission is apparently making some concession for those receiving less than a €1000, the fundamentals of what they are at remain the same.  It is therefore a complete attack on the decision of the ECJ.”  

“Minister Coveney needs to come out immediately to oppose this.  If this goes through, then surely equity demands that all social welfare recipients and the amount they receive should also be published.”

ICSA “hugely disappointed” at failure to scrap slurry deadline

12th September, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president, Gabriel Gilmartin, says he is “hugely disappointed” that the deadline for the spreading of slurry has not been abolished altogether, rather than simply extended.    

It emerged today that the closing dates for both slurry and fertiliser spreading have been pushed back by two weeks.  The last day for spreading fertiliser is now September 29th; while for slurry it’s now October 29th.  

Mr. Gilmartin said, “As ICSA has pointed out repeatedly, the abnormal level of rainfall seen in most parts of Ireland over the past few months has made farming exceptionally difficult this year.  The extension of the deadline for spreading fertiliser will probably be sufficient and I welcome that; however I am hugely disappointed that the Government has not seen fit to take the bull by the horns and fight for the abolition of “calendar farming,” which, in present circumstances, would mean going against best farming practice, i.e. forcing farmers to spread slurry on land that is not fit in order to comply with bureaucracy.”

“Year after year, weather conditions have led to the slurry deadline being extended; and year after year ICSA has called for the deadline to be abolished instead.  The continuing pattern of deadlines being extended as a direct result of the weather should have indicated to the legislators by now that they simply cannot ignore the fact that farming decisions must be guided by prevailing conditions, not dates on a calendar,” Mr. Gilmartin continued.  

“In fact, I would like to invite the Ministers for Agriculture and Environment to come out and see the state of Irish land for themselves.  Perhaps then they would realise the seriousness of the situation many farmers find themselves in and take action to get rid of the ridiculous notion of “calendar farming.”

ICSA calls for reassurance on winter finishers from factories

10th September, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association beef chairman, Edmond Phelan, said that beef factories are going to have to confront the reality that winter finishers will need better reassurances on beef price for the New Year if they are to fill sheds.  

Mr. Phelan said, “Escalating ration costs, along with costly and lower quality silage, means that the economics of winter finishing have rarely looked so grim.  The problem is magnified by recent price cuts at a time when all other key EU beef producing countries are seeing prices creep up.  Farmers will need price to come up 50c if there is to be any margin from winter finishing this year.”

ICSA organises fodder relief initiative for West Cork

5th September, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has organised the delivery of several loads of straw and silage bales from the midlands and east of the country to a number of farmers in west Cork, who have been particularly badly hit by the disastrous weather over the past few months.  The delivery of the bales took place on Monday, 3rd of September, at Togher Cross and Bantry.  

The cost of the operation is being subsidised by ICSA, with a contribution being made by the farmers receiving the bales.  The bales themselves are being provided either at cost price or at no cost, and the transport is being provided at a low cost also.  

The initiative came about following a visit last week to west Cork by ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin who called on some of the worst hit farms in the more marginal land in the region.  The ICSA leader also attended a public meeting in Dunmanway last Wednesday night, organised by ICSA West Cork chairman Dermot Kelleher.

“This is a very special initiative where farmers are going the extra mile to help out fellow farmers who under enormous pressure because of the weather.  Last week, I visited a number of farms in west Cork and what I saw there were serious situations.”

“Rather than wait for outside help or seek funds which are unlikely to materialise, we in ICSA decided to step in and deliver practical help, because action is what’s needed at this point in time, not just words,” said Mr. Gilmartin.  

Chair of West Cork ICSA, Dermot Kelleher, added, “In some cases, cattle have been inside for weeks because of the ground conditions and not a single blade of grass has been cut for silage, because the machinery simply can’t go into the fields.”

“This is putting unbelievable pressure on farmers and their families and that’s why ICSA felt something practical had to be done to relieve the pressure immediately.”

“The deliveries are being targeted at farmers who have little or no winter feed due to being unable to cut any or who have already fed it all.  We are also trying to ensure that supplies go to farmers who are in a bad way with grazing conditions on marginal land and where other viable income sources are not available,” he explained.  

“ICSA would welcome support from any farmers who feel that they may be able to help,” concluded Mr Kelleher, who is also the ICSA national suckler committee chairman.

Gilmartin says calendar farming ‘nonsense’ must end

4th September, 2012

President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association, Gabriel Gilmartin, has described the plethora of strict deadlines and closing dates imposed on vital farming activities as “nonsense”, and says the concept of farming by calendar dates must come to an end.  

Mr. Gilmartin recently visited a number of farms in the West Cork region, which have been particularly badly affected as a result of the huge rainfall levels seen in the past few months.  He said this bad weather has brought the issue to the forefront and is now more critical than ever.  “The rainfall there has been nothing short of catastrophic for farming.  It has made the ordinary, everyday business of running a farm exceptionally difficult, and this is being made all the worse by the looming deadlines for the likes of spreading slurry and fertilizer.  It’s gone beyond a simple extension of the deadlines.  What we need now is for the legislators to realise that the rules are making a tough job impossible, and that farmers need to be able to do their work as and when the weather and ground conditions allow.”

“Fodder shortage is a huge problem in some parts of the country, and we in ICSA have pledged to help those in need as much as we can.  We have already organised and subsidised the delivery of bales of straw to struggling farmers in West Cork.  However, the shortage of silage is only the tip of the iceberg this year.  The cost of concentrates is going up, the price of cattle is falling, and there is serious concern about the impact the weather is having on being able to meet cross-compliance requirements.”

“On top of all that is the mental pressure this is putting on farmers and their families.  The weather will improve eventually, and farmers will be able to go about their business – but we don’t know when that will be.  What I’m saying now is that farmers have to be given the flexibility to do what they can, when they can, and that means the authorities must grasp farming reality, and throw out the ridiculous concept of calendar farming.”

ICSA says more live export opportunities must be sought out

27th August, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association beef committee chairman, Edmond Phelan, says there is an urgent need for more live exports for Irish cattle, given that domestic prices have taken a significant hit in recent weeks.  

Mr. Phelan said, “Prices for beef have spiralled downwards in the last four to six weeks – so much so that many beef producers have seen their profit margins almost completely eroded.  Irish prices are now up to €300 per head behind British prices.  The main reason for this is that the extremely bad weather has given farmers very little choice but to sell their cattle; the factories know this and are taking advantage of the fact by cutting prices dramatically.  This leaves finishers who bought cattle when they were very dear in the last 12 months in a very tough situation.”  

“What we need is to create more competition so that we’re at least in with a shot of getting a decent price for the cattle we are producing.  We know that long term prospects are being developed with countries such as China and I am fully behind these efforts – but what I am calling for now is a parallel focus on increasing live exports immediately, in order to alleviate the pressure currently being felt as factories squeeze prices further and further.  There are indications that a number of countries in North Africa are potential customers for Irish cattle and possibilities like this need to be developed to the fullest extent.”

ICSA calls on Labour Party to clear up misinformation on farmers and third level grants

24th August, 2012

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin has called on the Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, and Labour Party chairman, Colm Keaveney, to clear up the misinformation about farmers and third level grants.  “For the last few weeks, all kinds of misinformation has been allowed to fester regarding third level grants.   The biggest lie is the notion that the system allows a farmer to buy, for example, a tractor and use the full cost of that tractor to wipe out income, thereby qualifying the farmer’s child for a third level grant.”

“The truth, as Minister Quinn and Deputy Keaveney should know well, is that such investments are not allowable when calculating eligibility for the grant.  In fact, all capital investments, including farm machinery, livestock housing and pollution control facilities are expressly excluded – not only under the new system operated by SUSI (the new, centralised grant application system) but also under the old local authority/ VEC application system.”

“In fact, the rules state clearly that interest incurred on borrowings for such investments is also not allowed, nor is the leasing cost of machinery.  This actually puts farm families at a significant disadvantage compared to other sectors.  Farmers need to reinvest in their businesses in order to remain viable – or in some cases, in order to comply with Department of Agriculture regulations – and this reinvestment, and associated interest charges, means that there is much less money left to put food on the table or to pay for their kids’ education costs.”

Mr Gilmartin also argued that the perception that farmers can manipulate their income in order to have a “bad year” for the purposes of grant assessment is incorrect.  “The reality is that farm incomes are volatile and can fluctuate dramatically from year to year.  This is more and more a feature of farming, as the CAP is now more oriented towards direct payments for environmental goals, rather than price support.  To illustrate this reality, the average farm income two years ago was €11,968 according to the Teagasc National Farm Survey for 2009, compared with €24,361 for 2011.  Incomes for 2012 are likely to be down again.”

“Therefore, ICSA believes that the fairest way of overcoming any doubts, while ensuring fairness for farm families, is to assess farm incomes based on the accounts of the preceding five to seven years.  The information is freely available from farm accounts and the records of the Revenue Commissioners and this would dispel any doubts about good years and bad years.”   

Mr Gilmartin reiterated that ICSA is firmly opposed to any means testing based on assets, and that the association will be lobbying all TDs on the matter in the coming weeks.