MONAGHAN ICSA TO HOST MEETING ON OUTCOMES OF BEEF CRISIS TALKS AND UPCOMING BEEF MARKETS TASKFORCE

7 OCTOBER 2019

Monaghan ICSA will host a farmers meeting to discuss the outcomes of the recent beef crisis talks and take a look at what we can expect from the newly established Beef Markets Taskforce.

The meeting will take place this Wednesday 9 Oct at the Four Seasons Hotel, Monaghan and will commence at 8.00pm. Guest speakers on the night will be:

Edmond Graham, ICSA beef Chair

The beef crisis and what happens next

 Tim Farrell, ICSA Rural Development Chair

Monaghan Greenway

 Myles Reilly, AXA Farm Insurance

How you can save money on your farm insurance

Plus, details of ICSA’s new partnership with AXA whereby ICSA members can now avail of 10% or €100 off the cost of AXA Farm Insurance.

 John Coffey from PV Energy will also be on hand on the night for anyone who wishes to discuss their solar power options.

All farmers are welcome to attend.
For enquiries, please call ICSA on 057 8662120 or ICSA Monaghan chair Gareth Graham on 087 9257531.

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ICSA SLATES GRAIN BUYERS FOR SETTING UNSUSTAINABLY LOW PRICES

4 OCTOBER 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said the low grain prices being offered to farmers shows such a contempt to farmers that it cannot go unchallenged. “The rock bottom prices being offered for grain, particularly by Glanbia, are in complete contrast to the top dollar prices they have no problem charging for inputs. How they expect their local suppliers to stay going is anyone’s guess,” he said.

“Adding insult to injury is that grain buyers continue to import foreign grain at a lower base price, purely to depress local prices further. Native quality assured grain should be fully utilised before they even contemplate bringing in lower quality foreign supplies. It’s a real slap in the face when farmers see grain coming in, particularly at harvest time, when they know it’s just a cynical ploy to slash the price of grain.”

“The era where farmers can be expected to subsidise the price of food is coming to an end, especially if we are to see cuts to basic payments. I would urge all grain buyers to seriously reconsider their base prices at this time.”

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ICSA WELCOMES EXAMINATION OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE CCPC IN BEEF SECTOR

2 OCTOBER 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has commended the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Business Enterprise and Innovation for grilling the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) at its meeting on Tuesday night, in line with ICSA calls for an Oireachtas investigation into the CCPC. “ICSA was outraged at the unwarranted intervention by the CCPC into recent beef talks and its extreme interpretation of competition law. For that reason, we called for an Oireachtas investigation to find out why the CCPC was so proactive when it came to a few farmers who have no ability to set the price, yet so powerless when it came to investigating the oligopoly structure of the meat processing sector.”

“In particular, ICSA has repeatedly pointed out that it is unusual to say the least that no factory can tell what the price of beef will be for next week at 2pm on Friday and yet they all know the price at 4pm. However, this highly unusual state of affairs attracts no attention from the CCPC who on the other hand, was very quick to threaten farmer representatives as soon as they entered beef talks with representatives of the meat factories.”

“The idea that it is illegal to even discuss the price of beef is an incredible conclusion in a liberal democracy. This is not North Korea. ICSA sees this as an incredibly extreme interpretation of competition law when the EU Competition Authority saw no difficulty with ABP taking over Slaney foods, thus furthering their dominant position in meat processing.”

“While the answers were not particularly satisfactory, we note that the CCPC agreed that there was possibly a need for an independent regulator to oversee the meat sector and to examine the breakdown of who gets what from the food chain.”

“ICSA acknowledges the efforts of the assembled deputies and senators to elicit answers to questions repeatedly asked by ICSA. However, the role of competition law needs further examination at EU level. It is patently absurd that millions of farmers, none of whom have any power to fix price, are subject to an even more stringent version of competition law than multi-national large scale processors or retailers. Clearly, the potential to rig the market is not to be found among the many powerless farmers who are on their knees. Competition law should be focused on the dominant players in processing and retailing.”

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ICSA SAYS TB STRATEGY MUST RESPECT FARMERS AND OPERATE ON BASIS OF PARTNERSHIP

1 OCTOBER 2019

ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chairman Hugh Farrell has said that the Department must proceed with a TB strategy based on partnership with farmers which deals with the key issues identified by farmer representatives at the TB Forum. Addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr Farrell said, “We need to face up to the role of wild deer in TB outbreaks. I cannot understand the reluctance of the Department on this issue. We also have to resolve compensation issues and accept that spending money now is better than continuing to spend money indefinitely. A TB strategy cannot work unless it operates on the basis that no individual farmer can be expected to carry an unfair burden and that farmers need 100% compensation.”

“ICSA wants the Department to commission research into the level of TB in deer and then implement a programme of culling. The reality is that we were going nowhere with TB until we did the same thing with badgers. We know that testing has shown up to 16% TB infection in deer in Wicklow. Even in the rest of the country, limited testing has suggested 4% TB in deer. This is enough to be extremely concerned, and is at least as high as the bovine levels. It therefore makes no sense to turn a blind eye.”

“We also put the case to the committee that outstanding compensation issues need to be dealt with. ICSA wants to see the Hardship Grant paid to all, regardless of off-farm income. We want to see Income Supplement payments to begin on the day that the reactors are detected and it must be paid on a per-day basis rather than a full month basis. The 10% rule for Income Supplement needs to be discarded. Most importantly, we want to see the independent valuers be left to do their job. The Department should not be second guessing the experts.”

“ICSA believes that money spent on sending Department officials to marts to compile prices is a waste when such data is readily available on a desk top exercise. This expenditure would be better spent on rectifying penny-pinching measures which cost individual farmers dearly.”

“ICSA believes that the TB Forum needs to reconvene to examine the results of the independent costs benefit analysis and the review of the On Farm Market Valuation.

“ICSA believes that unless all these issues are dealt with, there is little chance of eradicating TB by 2030. The TB Forum and the Department should operate on the basis that the views of those most affected – farmers – are given equal respect. Partnership is the way forward to eradicate TB, but it must be a partnership of equals.”

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ICSA CALLS FOR BEAM CHANGES TO ENSURE FULL DRAWDOWN OF FUNDS

26 SEPTEMBER 2019

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has said plans must be put in place to ensure the full €100m under the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) scheme goes to deserving farmers. “ICSA is insisting that any unused funds should be directed to increase the compensation per eligible animal,” he said.

“BEAM was never going to be a perfect solution for those who made horrendous losses since the autumn of 2018. However, we have an opportunity now to make the necessary tweaks to the scheme in order to get this money where it needs to go, and this needs to be done without delay.”

A total of 34,517 applications for compensation were received under the BEAM scheme, the closing date for which was Friday 20 September. Current estimates indicate that close to €22m will remain unclaimed if changes to the scheme are not made.

“It is imperative we see the entirety of these funds going to those whose primary farm enterprise is dependent on the state of the beef trade, who suffered the greatest hardship, and for whom this fund was rightly sought.”

ICSA is also calling on the Department of Agriculture to recognise the eligibility of farmers who exported finished cattle to Northern Ireland. “It is important that these farmers have access to BEAM also,” Mr Graham said.

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ALDI COMMITS TO ENGAGING WITH BEEF MARKET TASK FORCE

23 SEPTEMBER 2019

ICSA has met with senior representatives of ALDI supermarket to outline the pressure faced by Irish beef farmers. According to ICSA president Edmond Phelan, ALDI have committed to co-operating with the Beef Market Task Force which is being set up as an outcome of the beef protest negotiations.

“ICSA welcomes this commitment from ALDI and we are calling on all other main retailers to also engage. ICSA laid it out in very stark terms for ALDI that the future of beef farming in this country is on the line. Beef farmers in Ireland cannot continue to supply beef to retailers at well below the cost of production. Supermarkets need to reflect on the key question of whether the current model is sustainable where farmers are expected to continue to lose money.”

“ICSA also outlined the results to ALDI of the professional survey which RED C conducted on behalf of ICSA. The key finding was that only 1 in 8 consumers attached any importance to beef from animals under 30 months and we have asked ALDI to reflect on the findings.”

“However, we welcome the constructive engagement from ALDI and hope that this is the start of supermarkets facing up to their responsibilities towards suppliers. A business model that does not return a fair margin to anyone on the food chain cannot continue. In the not too distant future, if farmers in Ireland do not get a sustainable price, then supermarkets will end up depending on South American beef where traceability, quality assurance and other in-spec requirements will be ignored.”

“This will be very hard to explain to consumers who have come to expect the standards delivered by Irish farmers. So, it is in the interests of all retailers to now face up to the need to find solutions so that Irish farmers can continue to produce sustainable, grass fed, quality assured beef and achieve economic viability.”

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AUSTRIAN VOTE SHOWS MERCOSUR CONSENSUS FALLING APART

20 SEPTEMBER 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has suggested that the EU consensus in favour of a Mercosur deal is starting to fall apart with the vote in the Austrian parliament to oppose the deal. “The Austrian parliament has voted in recent days to reject Mercosur. This vote while not decisive is significant given that Austria, as a country which doesn’t have huge beef exports, was not one of the more vociferous opponents of the deal.

It seems that there is increasing unease that the costs outweigh the benefits particularly on environmental grounds. In simple terms, Mercosur means more cars sold to South America in return for more beef shipped to Europe even though our markets are already saturated. In particular, the less sustainable South American beef will displace much more sustainable Irish beef at a huge cost to rural communities in Ireland.

However, from an EU perspective, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Brazilians cannot be trusted to look after the Amazon rain forest and therefore, the EU is potentially culpable for rain forest destruction.

This deal, if it goes ahead, will mean that the EU will lose all moral authority to be a leader on climate change. The EU cannot expect European farmers to cut back for reasons of climate change while encouraging the expansion of Brazilian beef.

ICSA is now calling on the Taoiseach to remove all ambiguity from his recent statements on Mercosur and make a clear statement that Ireland will not support this deal which has already been shown to be a disaster from the perspective of rural Ireland.”

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ICSA & AXA FARM INSURANCE JOIN FORCES TO OFFER €100 OFF FARM INSURANCE

16 SEPTEMBER 2019

ICSA, together with Ireland’s largest general insurance company, AXA Insurance dac, are delighted to launch an exciting new proposition for farmers, with €100 off the cost of farm insurance for ICSA members. Speaking ahead of the launch, ICSA president Edmond Phelan said, “This unique offering between ICSA and AXA Insurance means that all members of ICSA can avail of 10% off farm insurance premiums under €1,000 or €100 off premiums over €1,000. It’s great to be bringing some good news to the farming community, particularly at a time when the sector as a whole remains challenged.”

Christy Doherty, head of farm at AXA said “Focused on making a difference in customers’ lives AXA are delighted to offer ICSA members a meaningful discount through your membership with ICSA. In addition to the discount ICSA members will also benefit from our unique online offering for farmers with 80 acres or less and our excellent service delivered through our dedicated Agri team based in Athlone, 20 AXA branches, over the phone and online.”

The launch will take place tomorrow at ICSA’s stand at the National Ploughing Championships at 11am – Row 17, Stand 369.

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ICSA CALLS FOR INCREASED PAYMENT PER HEAD SHOULD BEAM BE UNDERSUBSCRIBED

16 SEPTEMBER 2019

ICSA beef chair Edmond Graham has said if the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) scheme is undersubscribed, any unused funds should be directed to increase the compensation for eligible farmers. “We need to see the entirety of these funds going to those farmers who suffered the greatest hardship and for whom this fund was sought,” he said. Mr Graham made his comments following the announcement by Minister Creed that the deadline for applications has been extended until Friday, 20 September, at 5pm.

ICSA is also calling on the Department of Agriculture to recognise the eligibility of farmers who exported finished cattle to Northern Ireland. “It is important that these farmers have access to BEAM also,” Mr Graham said.

“While I encourage all eligible farmers to apply for the scheme, the fact remains that BEAM funds were never going to entirely make up for the losses suffered by beef and suckler farmers. ICSA believes that the rate per suckler cow and per slaughtered animal should increase to ensure full drawdown of the €100 million.”

Minister Creed also stated that staff from his Department would be available to assist farmers in making their BEAM applications at the Department of Agriculture stand at the National Ploughing Championships which start tomorrow, 17 September, in Fenagh, Co Carlow.

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ICSA WELCOMES BEEF AGREEMENT WITH SIGNIFICANT WINS FOR FARMERS 

15 SEPTEMBER 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has welcomed the conclusion of beef sector negotiations, with agreement by all parties. Mr Phelan highlighted the fact that 8 extra cent, that was never previously available, has be got for cattle over thirty months which was a big achievement. In addition, another 8c/kg was got for under thirty months in-spec cattle, bringing their bonus to 20c/kg. O- and 4+ categories will get an extra 12c/kg, having previously been ineligible for a QAS bonus.

A very important outcome is that Bord Bia will create a beef market index which will provide a lot more insight into whether the factories are paying the best price possible, given market conditions. The index will be linked to three elements; cattle prices in our markets, beef price at retail and wholesale level and the fifth quarter.

It has also been confirmed that a regulator is being considered as part of the implementation of the EU directive on Unfair Trading Practices. The agreement has also confirmed that factory insurance is voluntary and has reduced the the 70 days residency requirement to 60 days on the last farm.

ICSA recognises the tremendous sacrifices made by protesting farmers. “The meat industry has been confronted with the reality that farmers cannot survive on current prices and farmers and their representatives have worked in a unified way to squeeze the maximum concessions out of meat factories, given the current market conditions,” Mr Phelan said.

“In light of this agreement, ICSA is recommending that protests should now come to and end, so that farmers who need to sell cattle can do so.”

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