10 OCTOBER 2019

ICSA rural development chair Tim Farrell has said an extension to the slurry spreading deadline is now a requirement and a decision must be made on it today. “Weather conditions have not improved to a point whereby slurry can be effectively spread over the weekend,” he said.

“The responsibility ultimately lies with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy. I would urge him to liaise with Minister Creed at this critical time and make a prudent decision given the circumstances we are in. Ground conditions remain unsuitable and we need to ensure that damaging panic spreading is prevented.”



8 OCTOBER 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said today’s budget provides very little detail on how a no-deal Brexit will be mitigated. “The Minister for Finance indicated a fund of €110 million for the Department of Agriculture, of which €85 million will be targeted at beef farmers, in the event of a no-deal Brexit. However, it is clear that a no-deal Brexit would also require support from Brussels. The problem with all of this is that Brexit uncertainty has been almost as bad as the no-deal scenario for cattle and sheep farmers. Nothing in today’s budget acknowledges that reality.”

“We still are not clear as to what will be done to deal with the shortfall in applications for the BEAM programme. ICSA believes that the rate per qualifying animal should be adjusted upwards so that the full exchequer contribution of €50 million, along with matching EU funding can be utilised.”

“Sheep farmers are also feeling the impact of Brexit as low sheep price in the UK is completely undermining our sheep farmers. ICSA believes that sheep farmers are also going to need a package along the lines of the BEAM scheme for beef farmers.”

In other sections of the budget, ICSA is appalled at the further increase in stamp duty on land purchase which has now been increased twice, initially from 2% to 6% in the previous budget, and another increase in today’s budget to 7.5%. “This is a totally gratuitous assault on farmers trying to expand their enterprise. However, we do welcome the extension of the Capital Gains Tax relief for Farm Restructuring for another two years to the end of 2021.”

The increase in carbon tax, which is likely to be the first of many, is simply an unfair tax on rural dwellers. “Most rural dwellers cannot afford an electric car. Hybrid cars are okay for urban commuting but totally unsuited to rural or long distance driving and not practical for towing. Carbon tax without an alternative way of travel or haulage is simply personal tax dressed up in virtuous clothing.”

Mr Phelan described the minimal adjustments to the self-employed tax credit and the Capital Acquisitions Tax Group A rates as begrudging. “Initially, there was a commitment to rectify the injustice of income tax credits in three tranches of €550 a year. If that had happened, the self-employed person would have already achieved income tax parity with the employee. It is manifestly unfair that we are heading into yet another tax year whereby the earned income tax credit is still less than the employee tax credit (€1500 vs €1650).”



Ireland has committed to producing at least 16% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 and the next Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) is said to be fully aligned with the need to prioritise climate action. Farmers looking to benefit from green initiatives are being urged to attend Energy and Rural Business Show, taking place at Hub at Cillin Hill, Kilkenny on 23 and 24 October 2019.


This year the show is boosting its offering by including both Energy Now Expo and Rural Business Expo, so farmers can hear from experts on diversification and the growing opportunities and grants available for on-farm renewables.


Representing the Department for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) at Energy and Rural and Business Show Ireland is Michael O’Donoghue, who will deliver a talk on the solar PV grants available under the TAMS on-farm investment scheme and energy efficiency.


Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, T.D. stated that “energy efficiency and deployment of renewable technologies at farm level are important steps that farmers can make as a positive contribution to decarbonising our economy and society. And at the same time can save money while meeting their own and local energy needs. My Department is supporting this through grant aid for efficient technologies such as air source heat pumps and solar PV.”


Headline speakers and topics at the show include:


  • Ray Langton, programme manager, Renewable Heat Scheme, SEAI
    • The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH)
  • Barry Caslin, energy & rural development specialist, Teagasc
    • An overview of the renewable energy opportunities available to agriculture
  • Jason Hannon, renewable gas business development, Gas Network Ireland
    • A look at the future of the biomethane market
  • Marie Donnelly, chair, Renewable Energy Ireland
    • The Climate Action Plan – how can these targets be achieved?
  • Declan Rice, CEO, Kilkenny Leader Partnership
    • How LEADER grant funding can help you develop your business
  • Keith Harlin, geothermal geologist, Geothermal Association of Ireland
    • Is ground source heating for you?
  • Alison Corbally, director of breeding and programmes, Horse Sport Ireland
    • How to breed performance horses
  • Pat McCormack, president, ICMSA
    • Carbon Tax – what you need to know
  • David Walsh-Kemmis, Ballykilcavan Brewing Company
    • How to create a commercial brewery
  • Joseph Spollen, biomass supply manager, Bord Na Mona
    • Supplying biomass fuel – the customer perspective


The Big Debate

For the first time, the show is launching ‘The Big Debate’ on the continued growth of the renewable energy and low carbon sectors in Ireland, which will see industry experts discuss key topics and questions submitted by farmers on the run up to the event. Agribusiness specialist from the Irish Farming Journal, Lorcan Allen, will moderate the debate, and confirmed speakers on the panel include Cllr Malcolm Noonan, spokesperson for Regional Development & Rural Affairs from the Green Party, Tom Short, renewables project team chairman, IFA, Paddy Phelan, 3CEA manager, and PJ McCarthy, RGFI chairman.


To submit your burning question for The Big Debate, visit: http://www.energyandruralbusiness.co.uk/conference-ireland/the-big-debate


Energy Now Expo

If you’re looking to find out more about the opportunities available to farmers in renewable energy, Energy Now Expo showcases the latest technologies and services from expert speakers and exhibitors from across the renewables sector, including AD and biogas, biomass, energy crops, energy management, heat pumps, hydro, solar and energy storage.


Rural Business Expo

Farmers and landowners looking to future proof their businesses through diversification, whether it be making better use of current assets or launching a completely new business venture, Rural Business Expo features ‘How-To Workshops’ from speakers who have diversified their businesses and can offer guidance, as well as exhibitors with refreshingly practical and robust diversification propositions.

The event is run in association with the Irish Farming Association (IFA) and Teagasc and is supported by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA), The Alpaca Association of Ireland, Macra Na Feirme, the Renewable Gas Forum of Ireland (RGFI), the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), Three Counties Energy Agency (3CEA), The Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) and The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA).

Energy and Rural Business Show is free to attend, and places can be booked today: http://www.energyandruralbusiness.co.uk/welcome-ireland




7 OCTOBER 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said that the Beef Markets Taskforce must deliver real results for farmers and not just end up as a talking shop. “The onus is on the Minister and the chairman of the taskforce to ensure that the meat industry does not drag its heels or act as a barrier to progress.”

“Many farmers have no confidence that real change can be delivered through the taskforce. They have seen previous efforts achieve very little. The appointment of a chairman without any consultation with farm organisations has led to serious unease. The first set of negotiations in August produced a result which was deeply unsatisfactory to many farmers and contributed to the prolonged blockade in September.”

“The lesson must be learned from this. The meat industry cannot be allowed to frustrate progress nor can its red lines be seen as the red lines for the taskforce. Farmers are watching carefully, and they want to see real change.”

Key deliverables include:

  • Transparency over how much of the final retail price is delivered to farmers, taking account of the fifth quarter.
  • A proper, independent, evidence based assessment of whether in-spec criteria are justified by consumer demands.
  • Completion of the review of the grid with upwards adjustment of the U grade price to take account of the imbalance on the grid due to the proliferation of lower grade cattle.
  • Better oversight of factory floor grievances such as trim and grading anomalies.
  • Full engagement by the retail trade.
  • Appointment of a regulator.

The Minister must be responsible for ensuring results on these issues. If there is any sense that progress is frustrated, he must intervene immediately. “The last thing that we want to see is farmers getting angry again which is exactly what will happen if this taskforce ends up being like all previous efforts to address the dysfunctional relationship between farmers and factories.”

“It is not good enough to blame it all on markets when the big three processors in Ireland are so dominant not only in Ireland but also in the UK. It is all too easy to say we have to do what UK supermarkets tell us, but the reality is that the UK beef consumer is massively dependent on beef processed by the big three Irish processors from farms in Ireland and the UK.

If these farmers gave up producing beef the only realistic alternative would be beef from South America. The retailers would then have to explain that all the quality assurance and the in-spec requirements, the traceability and the animal welfare and environmental benefits of our beef was now gone forever. We also saw with the blockades that shops were only days away from beef shortages. So to say that we have no influence on the marketplace is too convenient an excuse. This must be kept in mind during taskforce proceedings.”



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.



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.”



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.”



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.”




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.




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.”