25 JANUARY 2019

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has said it is now urgent that the Government undertakes a concerted push to get EU agreement on special measures to underpin the beef sector. “The key issue is to find a temporary home for beef exports normally destined for the UK market, in the event of a no deal Brexit. The only realistic short-term solution is a targeted intervention or aids to private storage scheme (APS) to apply where a member state is severely and uniquely impacted by Brexit.”

While Commissioner Hogan has sought to reassure farmers that the EU stands ready to help Irish and EU farmers in the event of a hard Brexit, the detail remains unclear. “The situation is precarious for beef farmers given the level of investment they have already put into their stock and now face the prospect of a wipe-out. A special package to buy displaced Irish beef into emergency private storage or intervention is the minimum required. This is not just in Ireland’s interest; it is also essential to avoid catastrophic disruption of the entire EU beef market.”

“However, we need to set a realistic trigger price and have it targeted specifically for Brexit fall-out. At present, the price support instruments of intervention or private storage are too blunt and of no use for the beef sector. The scheme can only kick in when the price of beef falls below 85% of an EU reference point that is set far too low and needs to be adjusted. Dairy reference prices are set at levels which mean that they can sometimes help the dairy sector but the beef levels are currently not fit for purpose.”

“The potential to allow flexibility under state aid rules must also be explored.”



25 JANUARY 2019

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has said the issue of carcass trim is one that’s causing considerable concern amongst sheep farmers. “Over zealous trimming of sheep carcasses is an ongoing worry with farmers who are reporting a kilo or more of a difference in kill out weights among various factories.”

Continuing Mr Brooks said, “Sheep farmers have been operating for years under the assumption that somebody was watching our back. This is not the case however. Shockingly, there is no EU legislative requirement for processors to classify sheep carcasses as is the case for cattle. Carcass trim, weights and grading are all at the discretion of the meat plant and in some cases this information is then manually input at a point in process where farmers have no physical access or means of checking procedures or accuracy.”

“Without any checks and balances in place, sheep farmers are at the mercy of the factories. It certainly gives credence to all the anecdotal evidence of the vastly different kill out weights and grades given across various meat plants. With margins so tight, every kilo counts. Indeed, in this day and age it is scandalous that we should be expected to put up with no monitoring on carcass trim and unverified weights and grades. Inaccurate weights and grades can have a significant financial impact when bonuses and penalties are in play. Essentially they are playing around with farmers’ livelihoods.”

Mr Brooks also questioned the relevance and validity of ongoing data collection and research regarding sheep carcass weights and carcass grades at farm level and at institutional research level. “As there is no standardised checking of trim and no oversight regarding weights and grading, where does that leave all this data? A lot of effort goes in to making improvements aimed at overall performance and efficiency. All this effort would appear meaningless in light of factories essentially doing what they want once you hand over your animals. ”



24 JANUARY 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has welcomed news that the EU has made proposals to exclude agriculture from bilateral trade talks with the US launching later this year. The EU Commission has instead committed to strictly focus on removing tariffs and non-tariff barriers to transatlantic trade on industrial goods.

Commenting Mr Kent said, “This commitment from EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström is indeed a move in the right direction towards protecting European farming interests. The US had sought extensive market access for US agricultural products as well as a relaxation of the regulations surrounding standards.”

“ICSA is vehemently opposed to saturating European markets with American agri-food products, particularly in the midst of ongoing Brexit uncertainty and the continuing threat of a Mercosur trade deal, both of which could decimate the beef trade here. In addition, the move illustrates the point that we should never compromise on standards, something that we hope will be carried over into any future Mercosur talks. Safeguarding our methods of family farming and food production that adhere to the highest standards, while limiting the influx of cheaper inferior produce has to be a priority.”



21 JANUARY 2019

The Government’s recently published Greenway Strategy, which is backed by a €53 million funding call, contravenes several EU directives on environmental sustainability and resource efficiency according to Galway ICSA representative Adrian Kelly.

“EU directives and national planning regulations require developers, including local authorities, to compare and contrast the environmental impacts of reasonable alternatives to proposed projects. Projects should also be shown to use resources in an efficient and sustainable way. The central issue is that the Department of Tourism, Transport and Sport (DTTAS) is trying to reinterpret greenway provision as being focused on the construction of new roads. This is a departure from best international practice and long standing national policy.”

“We know that rural cycling networks may include dedicated greenways but can also use minor country lanes with low traffic. Across Europe cycling tourists and family groups use many low-traffic roads as part of national and international (Eurovelo) cycle networks. However, the effect of the Greenway Strategy is to instruct local authorities to build new roads as a direct alternative to adapting existing features that can accommodate cycling infrastructure. This will result in proposed projects having an unnecessarily higher impact on the environment.”

ICSA is again calling on Minister Shane Ross to commit to building cycle routes using the internationally accepted and recognised Eurovelo guidelines and to immediately cease the use of CPOs to forcefully acquire working farmland and private property for such routes. Utilising Eurovelo guidelines will ensure that devising cycling infrastructure in this country will be a resource efficient, low carbon project conforming to EU directives.”



18 JANUARY 2019

ICSA suckler chairman John Halley has said that the Government needs to be unequivocal in supporting the beleaguered Irish beef sector at a time when the threats from Brexit and ideologically motivated reports is adding to the pressures already caused by low prices.

 “The Taoiseach has yet to admit that he made a major gaffe in undermining Irish beef both in terms of climate change and in terms of health. There is no point in spending money on trying to sell Irish beef on international markets when the leader of the country is advocating eating less of it.”

 “The recent EAT Lancet report refers to the WHO studies which did not establish a link between red meat and cancer but a slightly increased risk involving processed meats probably due to added salt, nitrites etc. We would also question how eating products such as quinoa, tofu, soya and avocados is good for climate change when they involve flying food all over the planet and impacting badly on local environments and communities.”   

 Minister Creed will have to insist that there are no mixed messages coming from the Government. “ICSA is insisting that we need emergency intervention ready to go if the UK goes ahead with a no deal Brexit. There is no room for any equivocation on the Government’s behalf at this time of crisis for the sector.”



18 JANUARY 2019

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has urged beef farmers to cease the practice of rearing New Zealand influenced dairy bred calves. “Taking on calves from Jersey and Kiwi cross herds make no financial sense whatsoever. It is a futile practice that will never turn a profit for a beef farmer,” he said.

Mr Graham was responding to recent comments from Pearse Kelly of Teagasc who said a dairy farmer would need to pay a beef farmer €140 on top of a Jersey-cross calf to finish him as a 24 month steer at current beef prices.

 “The figures just don’t add up. Indeed, I would argue the Teagasc figure is on the low side and a beef man would need a lot more than the €140 suggested. It’s time to face economic reality with this one and stop taking on these calves once and for all. Farmers need to be very cautious too to avoid beef cross Jersey influenced calves.”

Continuing Mr Graham said, “Dairy in this country has been moving more and more towards a New Zealand model, but the difference between Ireland and New Zealand is that New Zealand doesn’t have a beef industry. Yet here in Ireland beef farmers are almost expected to take on the influx of unwanted dairy calves. Unfortunately, it is a road we can no longer afford to go down and the responsibility ultimately lies with the sector that bred them.”

Mr Graham added that farmers also needed to wake up to the dangers of trying to make profit from rearing Holstein bull beef. “I am inundated with calls from farmers who are being turned away from factories with O grade bull beef. In the last week, I estimate I have had calls from farmers who have some 2,000 head of Holstein bull beef who cannot find a factory to take them. Teagasc figures do not account for the risk of being caught with bulls going over age and nobody to buy them.”



15 JANUARY 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the defeat of Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons has raised the level of risk for the Irish beef sector to status orange. “It is now urgent that the Government undertakes a concerted push to get EU agreement on special measures to underpin the beef sector.”

“The key issue is to find a temporary home for beef exports normally destined for the UK market, in the event of a no deal Brexit. While we must remain hopeful that common sense will prevail, we must prepare for the worst.”

“A special package to buy displaced Irish beef into emergency storage or intervention is the minimum required. This is not just in Ireland’s interest; it is also essential to avoid catastrophic disruption of the entire EU beef market.”

Mr Kent concluded by calling on both sides to find a means of deferring the UK leaving on March 29 if there is no movement towards a better resolution in the House of Commons. “Unfortunately, it seems there is a strand of thought in the UK that sees nothing wrong with the WTO default position. There seems to be a failure to understand the implications for food availability there and the potential for food price inflation in the UK caused by tariffs on food imports and a severe drop in the value of sterling. Those who suggest that the UK could unilaterally decide to collect no tariffs have no understanding of how this would undermine their ability to negotiate trade deals. But unfortunately, Ireland is facing severe collateral damage from the complete lack of responsible leadership in the UK and our government must act now to get a deal from Europe.”





15 JANUARY 2019

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has welcomed the inclusion of meal bins as an eligible investment in TAMS for all sectors. “During our discussions on TAMS with the Department of Agriculture Food & the Marine ICSA had looked for this concession and had been guaranteed of its inclusion if the funding was available. We now see the follow through on that promise and I commend the department for that,” said Mr Brooks.

“The fodder crisis of last year highlighted the need for clean and safe storage solutions for meal concentrates. Meal bins provide this and also give farmers the option of buying concentrates in bulk and avail of any savings to be made. This is hugely important in sectors where tight margins and low incomes are features. In addition, it gives parity to the beef and sheep sectors as dairy farmers already receive support for feeding systems.  ICSA will continue to liaise with department officials on other meaningful ways to support drystock farmers through TAMS,” concluded Mr Brooks.

The current tranche of TAMS opened in December and will remain open until 5 April 2019.



15 JANUARY 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has described comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar regarding consuming less meat to mitigate climate change as “reckless in the extreme”. Commenting further Mr Kent said, “As one of the most important beef exporters in the northern hemisphere, it is very unfortunate indeed that our Taoiseach should be calling into question the sustainability of Irish beef production.”

Mr Varadkar had made his comments in response to a question as to what he was doing personally to reduce his own carbon footprint.

Continuing Mr Kent said, “In 2018 agri-food sector exports amounted to €13.6bn with the value of meat and livestock exports comprising €3.97bn of that total. Surely the onus is on Mr Varadkar to protect such a vital industry; his cavalier comments however will do nothing but undermine it.”

“Ireland’s farmers are leaders when it comes to climate change mitigation. We work tirelessly with all relevant stakeholders both here and in Brussels to deliver the highest quality produce while also delivering on food security, traceability and sustainability. Other industries need to be just as proactive and the Taoiseach should remember that before making disparaging remarks about world class produce. Mr Varadkar would be better served putting his efforts in preventing vast quantities of inferior meat products entering the EU from the other side of the world.”

Concluding Mr Kent called upon Mr Varadkar to clarify that he wasn’t suggesting that people should eat less sustainably produced Irish beef and lamb.




11 JANUARY 2019

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has commended the publication in the Farmers’ Journal of costs of production for a kg of beef outlined by Waterford farmer Billy Glasheen which demonstrates the need for straight talking about the future of the sector. “Billy Glasheen has brought reality to the discussion by including a rate for the farmer’s labour.”

“He also argues correctly that account should be taken of the cost of the farmer’s own land but he has set that against land based direct payments. In reality for most farmers, the direct payments are not fully compensating for the opportunity cost of leasing out land.”

“The figures which show an average production cost for a kg of beef in the range €5 to €5.30 are more realistic than Teagasc figures in the range €4 to €4.54 because the Teagasc figures do not allow anything for your own labour or your family’s labour. There is no other industry where the cost of production ignores basic labour costs.”

“ICSA has been arguing for years now that it is unacceptable that a farmer is expected to work for free, especially in an economy where there are many job opportunities and where farmers are facing a huge challenge to get help either full-time or part-time. We have to get the message out to all stakeholders, including processors, retailers and consumers that the real cost of production is above €5/kg and that it is utterly unsustainable for farmers to sell beef on today’s market at €3.65.

This also serves as a wake-up call for the Government that continued expansion is not working for our suckler or beef farmers and that a complete re-think is required.”