27 MARCH 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the Teagasc Sustainability report has blown apart the narrative that suckler and beef farmers are the problem on climate change. “The suckler herd is clearly not the problem when cattle farming systems produce less than half the emissions of intensive dairy farming systems per hectare.”

“This revelation means that where a hectare of land is switched from sucklers to intensive dairy, GHG emissions double. ICSA has been arguing for a long time that cattle and sheep farmers should not be the scapegoats for our climate change challenges. For too long, there has been a veil of silence over the outrageous blame game directed at our members – extensive cattle and sheep farmers – whereby statistics were massaged to make it look like suckler farming in particular had to carry the burden of adjustment.”

“While there is no doubt that all sectors have to do their bit in being more efficient in terms of emissions, it is now time for all to recognise that cattle, sheep and tillage systems give rise to between 2 and 4.2 tonnes CO2/ha compared with 8.5 tonnes for intensive dairy. This has serious implications for policy. It calls into question the long standing advice to cattle and sheep farmers to intensify and expand output.”

ICSA has continuously questioned that advice because in the beef sector, increased output does nothing except drive down prices. Even worse, it leads to the sort of price gouging we see at the moment where surplus supplies are leading to scandalous cuts on bull beef producers where the most arbitrary weight limits are used to defraud farmers out of a fair price.

“It is nothing short of a crime to see farmers being cut to €3/kg for prime beef when the apparent price for bull beef is €3.60/kg just because the carcass is a few days over two years old and above 420kg. At the same time, farmers who try to kill bulls under the age and weight limits get hammered on low fat score. “

“Instead of this, we need to be marketing suckler beef as a speciality high value product. It now emerges that a hectare of land devoted to suckler beef is far lower in emissions than intensive dairying. Suckler farmers and suckler beef finishers are sick and tired of bearing the brunt of adverse and ill-informed commentary on climate change while at the same time being used and abused to advertise all beef.”

“ICSA is the only recognised farm organisation that is 100% unequivocally in favour of targeting PGI (Protected Geograpical Indication) status at low intensity, speciality suckler beef. It is now time that we abandon any plans to market all beef as one generic and thereby cheap commodity product. It is now time to focus efforts on getting exclusive PGI status for suckler beef with a view to delivering a premium and economically viable price for our sucklers.”

“I welcome the information in the Teagasc Sustainability report and ICSA wants to see this recognition of the low emissions from suckler and sheep sectors used for the benefit of our members in terms of marketing beef. We also want to see the lower per hectare emissions from the cattle, sheep and tillage sectors rewarded in the CAP reform.”



26 MARCH 2019

ICSA Munster Vice President Dermot Kelleher has welcomed the purchasing of weanlings for export to Turkey by Dutch Livestock Company Heemskerk BV. Mr Kelleher, who has strongly pushed Minister Michael Creed on developing the live export trade, met the principals of the exporting company, Mr Cors Heemskerk and his wife Bea at Castleisland mart in recent days as they bought weanlings.

“I am very pleased that Heeskerk have secured an outlet for some 3,500 weanlings to be filled in the next month to fulfil a contract they secured in Turkey before the import restrictions were imposed. Their buyers are active at several marts around the country and they are actively looking for R grade weanlings up to 320kg.”

“I am hopeful that the trade restrictions will be lifted by the Turkish government in the coming months in time for the busy autumn trade. The Heemskerk company are a very reputable outfit having being involved in the live export trade for many years and they have close ties with Irish farming going back to the 1960s.”



13 MARCH 2018

ICSA president Patrick Kent has called on the Data Protection Commissioner to investigate if the reported IFA levies proposal is GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliant. “I am extremely concerned at the potential breach of farmers’ privacy rights under GDPR and data protection rules posed by proposals that meat factories would supply information about their suppliers to IFA.

“Levies are voluntary and many farmers have extreme misgivings about the method of taking money off them without their prior consent. At a very minimum, levies should only be collected from those who have opted in. However, this new proposal to force farmers to sign a no-levies document which will then become a blacklist sent to IFA is outrageous.

“My legal advice is that levies should only ever be deducted on an opt-in basis. There is no way that a farmer can be compelled to sign an opt-out of levies form in respect of livestock or produce supplied to a mart or processor, when it is clear that such confidential information will then be forwarded to IFA.”

“It is highly likely that this will end up being the subject of a claim to the Data Protection Commissioner. However, it is unacceptable that any farmer who objects will be confronted by the might of a meat factory which in turn has the comfort of being indemnified by IFA. I am therefore calling on the Data Protection Commissioner to proactively investigate what is going on here and explain to all farmers just what their rights are under GDPR.”

ICSA represents its members interests in Ireland and at European level and does not take levies.



13 MARCH 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the announcement on tariff rates by the British Government crystallises our worst fears of the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the Irish beef sector. “The beef farming sector is already in crisis, with prices back up to €200/ head year on year for certain categories of animal. In some cases, farmers have had delays in getting animals processed. This announcement will cause dismay and we cannot underestimate the potential devastation to beef farming.”

“The plans by the UK government outline tariffs on beef of 53% of the EU tariff rate for beef and 100% for sheepmeat. While the beef rate could have been even higher, the distinction is academic as it poses an immense barrier to continued beef exports to the UK. In the short term, we should expect that contracts already signed with UK supermarkets will be honoured but in this kind of scenario all bets are off.  In any event, it is certain that these tariffs will soon begin to cause calamity for our beef exports.”

“The rates imposed on sheep meat are actually much more punitive, presumably because the UK government has decided to protect their sheep farmers but our sheep farmers are not so dependent on the UK for exports.

There is some leeway provided by a tariff rate quota of approximately 125,000 tons for beef at 0% rate. In theory we could avail of some of this quota but it will be open to all other exporters of beef as well including South America.

It is notable that the tariffs will not apply to beef exported to Northern Ireland but it is unclear yet as to how this might pan out.”

In practice, this suggests that Irish beef which is subjected to the tariff will be about 40% dearer than currently and therefore most UK consumers would be deterred from buying it. UK supermarkets would then have to choose between vastly increased beef prices or buying less traceable, low standard beef from South America.



12 MARCH 2019

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has said that any farmer considering buying dairy calves should demand a factory contract, to include an agreed price, in advance of purchasing. Mr Graham said, “Farmers even remotely thinking about taking on these calves need a guarantee that there will be an outlet for them in two years’ time that will cover the cost of production, plus a margin.”

Continuing Mr Graham said, “The economics of dairy bull beef simply don’t stack up. Even if you get the calves for free, they are still too expensive at today’s prices and that’s the reality. We have no clarity on the outlook for dairy bull beef so why take the risk and expend two years for nothing? This enterprise is a complete waste of time; it’s bad enough losing money but to have the stress of not knowing when or if you can get your bulls killed is completely unacceptable. Even with steer or heifer systems it is it is absolutely necessary to know what price you can expect in two years’ time. Farmers cannot be expected to undertake long term investment without long term contracts. This year has to be the last year of winter finishers getting burned.”



5 MARCH 2019

ICSA suckler chairman John Halley has said that it is imperative that any initiative to get EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for beef should be focused on developing a niche for animal welfare friendly, less intensive suckler beef systems. “Suckler farming is the image used to promote Irish beef but suckler farmers are not getting the return for their system of farming,” he said.

Mr Halley was speaking following a stakeholder meeting on the subject of attaining PGI status for Irish beef, held in Agriculture House last week.

“PGI status should be used as a mechanism to sell suckler beef as a premium product to discerning consumers. There are many reasons why suckler beef should be seen as premium product, including high animal welfare standards, high natural health status and the fact that much of the suckler production is intrinsically linked with maintaining high amenity landscapes in regions where tourism is vital. Any strategy to get PGI status for the entire kill, including dairy beef, risks making the same mistake as the previous attempt in 2009, which was rejected by the EU Commission.”

“If we go for one generic PGI to cover everything, suckler farmers will feel let down that dairy farming interests have triumphed again when in fact, this should be used as a device to improve returns from suckler systems.”

“ICSA believes that if there is any hope, it must be the development of a suckler beef brand, based on natural, extensive, pasture-based farming. We cannot have PGI status for all beef, it just won’t fool consumers. Ideally, this should be done in conjunction with a really beneficial agri-environment scheme that is more like REPS and less like GLAS in terms of delivering significant payment levels to farmers engaged in suckler beef production.”

“There will have to be buy-in from the meat industry to market this as a high value niche product. This will not work if we have artificial incentives to encourage farmers to keep more suckler cows. Instead we need to focus on paying better direct payments to more extensive systems of farming because we have seen time and time again that scarcity is far better than traceability or sustainability for farmers.”



1 MARCH 2019

ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chair Hugh Farrell has said he is confident that a DAFM proposal to display herd histories on mart boards has been taken off the table for the foreseeable future as a result of strong opposition from ICSA and other farm organisations at the TB Forum. “As part of the TB Forum ICSA are delivering for drystock farmers on this issue, we need to ensure now that the measure is not introduced by the back door,” he said.

Mr Farrell said that the introduction of herd categorisation or risk based trading at this time would have a devastating impact. He said, “There are simply no mechanisms that could compensate for the devaluation in herds that this would bring about. This information, in a public forum, would wreak havoc on the market and result in many farms going out of business. ICSA will not stand by and allow this to happen when there is scope within the Department to further use this sensitive information in-house when individual cases are identified”

Mr Farrell said that while the TB Forum has its merits, department officials are very focused on pushing through their own demands while resisting demands from farming organisations. “The desire is there from both sides to speed up the eradication process but farmers concerns over adequate disease policy measures and compensation levels will need to be addressed for things to progress.”

He said, “In particular we need to see more commitment from DAFM officials to tackle the deer situation. It is a stated objective of the Department to eliminate TB but this cannot be achieved unless we know exactly what is going on with TB in deer and what can be done to eliminate the risk of transmission to cattle.”

This is why ICSA has been calling for a comprehensive research programme into the link between TB in deer and in cattle. “There must be a research programme and there must be full openness and transparency around the results. The Department mantra that there is no evidence of a link between the ever expanding deer population and the spread of TB rings very hollow when they haven’t done the necessary studies. It is incredulous that despite repeated calls from ICSA, officials from the department’s wildlife section have not sat on the Forum.”

“Likewise, on the badger front, we do not have sufficient trust in the vaccination programme. We have seen big breakdowns in areas where vaccination has been rolled out so it is only right that we question the methodology and effectiveness of the vaccine before any further demands can be placed on farmers. This will require more testing of badgers, including testing prior to vaccination and testing of all culled badgers.”

On the financial side, reactor compensation levels remain a contentious issue, particularly for sucklers cows where the loss of production value is not taken into consideration.  ICSA has been arguing that calves under four months should be considered a unit with their mother if the mother has tested positive for TB. This calf should be removed from the farm with their mother as a disease prevention measure and a valuation on the unit as a whole should be made.”

Again, as a disease prevention measure, ICSA is calling for the urgent establishment of a closed calf to beef units to accommodate calves from reactor herds. “We need to see this established to reduce the potential for these calves to further spread the disease as they are dispersed around the country.”

 Neither do the overall costings of the programme adequately reflect the true cost of the programme to farmers. “These issues have yet to be resolved. The danger is that the Forum will be shut down once the Department have got what they want out of the process while these and other issues are put on the long finger.”



27 FEBRUARY 2019

Speaking from London, ICSA president Patrick Kent has said there is almost universal agreement amongst farm organisations that a no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for farming. Mr Kent made his comments following a meeting today of officials from a broad spectrum of farm organisations which operate under the umbrella Fairness for Farmers in Europe.

Commenting Mr Kent said, “It is clear from our talks this afternoon with our colleagues from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain that a no-deal Brexit is the worst possible outcome for farmers on these isles. While the Irish Government has put certain measures in place in an attempt to offset the fallout from Britain crashing out of the EU, it will never be enough. Likewise, for our counterparts in the North and Great Britain the consequences would be dire.”

Delegates at the meeting were unified in urging the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove to recognise the importance of avoiding a no-deal Brexit scenario.



22 FEBRUARY 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that he is shocked that ABP UK has got into the business of manufacturing meat free burgers. He described their GBP£250,000 marketing spend on a meat-free, plant based food range, as outrageous. “This is insult to beef farmers everywhere but particularly Irish beef farmers given the dire position the sector is in at present. ABP UK have prospered greatly off the backs of hard pressed beef farmers and to throw this in their faces at a time like this is an utter disgrace.”

Mr Kent suggested ABP UK should be more concerned with their core business and that the money would be better spent on paying a better price to beef farmers and promoting greater beef consumption. “At a time when beef farmers can’t even cover their costs, the gall of advocating plant based quarter pounders rather than treating beef farmers fairly is contemptuous in the extreme.”

Link below to GlobalMeatNews article ‘ABP UK enters plant-based market with Equals range.’




22 FEBRUARY 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the announcement on increased state aid limits does not reflect the absolute devastation that would result from a hard Brexit on the beef sector. “Increasing the three year state aid limit from €15,000 to €25,000 would barely cover the losses already incurred by a sector where beef price is down up to €200 per head on certain categories of cattle such as bull beef.”

“However, if there is a no-deal Brexit and the UK applies full WTO tariffs to beef imports, then the state aid announcement will not even remotely cover beef losses. In that case the Irish Government will have to demand a comprehensive EU package to add to extra state aid.”

“ICSA met senior EU officials in Brussels earlier this week and we made the case very strongly that Brexit is Europe’s problem. Talking about solidarity between the EU-27 is fine but meaningless unless it is backed up by extra funds. Irish beef farmers did not cause Brexit and they cannot be expected to carry the can. While Ireland is committed to the EU, such commitment must be reciprocated to protect Irish farmers.”