UNWORKABLE CUTS TO CAP BUDGET MUST BE STOPPED

28 MAY 2020

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said it is very disappointing that the latest proposals from the EU Commission on the next CAP budget still represent a big drop on the previous CAP period, adding “The announcement is all the more frustrating given that it comes hot on the heels of the launch of the EU’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies which will place significant additional demands on farmers. It is incredulous that this should be followed by the news that no additional funding is to be provided for this, and that farmers will actually have to rely on less.”

“The reality is the Commission’s proposal for the CAP 2020-2027 budget, coupled with what is referred to as an economic recovery allocation, amounts to €352.145 billion which is a drop of €31 billion from the 2014-2020 period, when the budget stood at €383.6 billion. This equates to an overall budget reduction of 8%.”

“This proposed budget offers no real prospects for a sector that has been rocked by the crisis brought about by Covid-19. It does not ensure farming families will continue to have the ability to produce high quality food at a reasonable price. It makes no allowances for the extra burden of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies. Nor does offer any capacity for crucial investment in techniques and routes that can deliver dual economic and environmental performance.”

“As these proposals have yet to be set in stone, we need to see a determined effort on the part of government to fight for a CAP budget that can sustain the ever-increasing ambition of the programme.”

ENDS

POOR EXCUSES KEEP COMING AS FACTORIES UNJUSTLY CUT LAMB PRICES

28 MAY 2020

ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara has said the impending bank holiday weekend has seen factories pull prices again for no reason. “Lambs are still not that plentiful and with demand remaining strong at retail level the cuts this week are completely unjustified,” he said.

“Time and again we see factories pulling excuses out of the bag in attempt to explain away price cuts and it just doesn’t wash. Lamb is not getting any cheaper for the consumer, yet the farmer is being expected to produce it for less, just because it is a bank holiday.”

“I am also receiving reports of factories intimidating farmers who are selling online through the marts. They appear to be using this additional information available through online sales to see who is selling what and when, and then using it against them.”

“Farmers need to resist these tactics at all times and insist on getting paid properly.”

ENDS

CHINESE MARKET FOR IRISH BEEF MUST BE REACTIVATED WITHOUT DELAY

27 MAY 2020

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has said he is hopeful the Chinese market for Irish beef can be reactivated without delay. “This is an atypical case of BSE so it will not impact on our progress towards the OIE’s requirements around reaching negligible status for the disease. Nor are there any public health risks associated with the finding,” he said.

“It is our understanding the Department of Agriculture will prepare an epidemiological report on the issue and we expect the matter to be resolved in a timely manner. It is imperative that we can act fast on this in order to minimise disruption.”

ENDS

FAIR PRICES, TRANSPARENCY ALONG FOOD CHAIN AND NEED FOR FULLY FUNDED CAP HIGHLIGHTED AS ICSA MEETS WITH GREEN PARTY

22 MAY 2020
 
Following an online meeting with representatives from the Green Party, ICSA president Edmond Phelan said, “The priority for ICSA is to ensure cattle and sheep farmers achieve a fair price for their produce in a marketplace with greater transparency and for farmers to be paid for delivering climate change benefits to society.”

Adding that these issues must be central to the next programme for government, Mr Phelan said, “As well as stressing the importance of greater transparency along the food chain, ICSA also underlined the need for enforcing labelling rules and weeding out unfair trading practices in the processing and retailing sectors. The focus must be on exposing excess profiteering and ensuring a level playing field, particularly for beef and sheep farmers.”

On the EU’s new Farm to Fork strategy, Mr Phelan said, “We cannot have a greener EU unless it is funded properly. Quality produce that is produced to the highest environmental standards cannot be delivered to European consumers without delivering a fair price to the primary producer. Nor can farmers be expected to compete with lower standard produce from outside the EU flooding the market. This is particularly true of vast quantities of South American beef entering the EU on the back of international trade deals such as Mercosur.”

“Farmers cannot shoulder the cost of climate change and the new Government will achieve nothing unless we have a fully funded CAP. It is clear that maintaining the family farm model is central to achieving our climate change targets. However, it is also clear that the family farm model is in financial dire straits and no more can be done, unless there is adequate funding for it.”

Concluding Mr Phelan said, “ICSA is committed to working with all parties as government formation discussions evolve.”

ENDS

FARM TO FORK WON’T WORK WITHOUT A FAIR PRICE TO PRIMARY PRODUCER


20 MAY 2020

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said the EU Commission’s launch of its Farm to Fork strategy would not succeed unless it charted a way to deliver a fair price to the primary producer.  “The EU cannot continuously expect the farmer to do more for less, to produce more with less, and then to compete on an uneven playing field.”

“It simply will not work if we have ever higher standards in Europe and then undermine our farmers with more and more imports from outside the European Union from countries where such standards are not upheld. It will not work if we allow large corporations to get around lax labelling laws so that ingredients can be sourced from other regions which are cheaper because they don’t follow EU anti-microbial or pesticide rules. In reality, we have to have a fundamental re-think about whether the high ideals of the Farm to Fork strategy are compatible with importing 300,000 tons of beef into the EU.”

ENDS

EU CUTS TO TB ERADICATION FUNDING CANNOT BE PASSED ON TO FARMERS


18 MAY 2020

ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chair Hugh Farrell has said farmers cannot be expected to make up any monetary shortfall in the TB Eradication Programme as a result of minor reductions in EU funding. “The Department has allowed a narrative to emerge that we are going in the wrong direction on TB eradication and that it is the fault of the farmer. Moreover, it is apparently supported by the EU decision to cut funding as a demonstrated reprimand calculated to whip farmers into submission.”

“ICSA rejects this narrative out of hand. In the first instance, the context is that the Department, with the explicit support of other stakeholders and a whole of government approach has set out successive agri-food strategies to expand our food exports based on substantial growth in the national herd. The target was to get to €19 billion agri-food exports and so far, we have surpassed €13 billion, representing over 30% growth in output. To a significant extent, this has occurred due to the increase in dairy cow numbers to 1.5 million by 2019 from 1 million before quota abolition, with a consequential impact on beef numbers.”

Mr Farrell argues that a massive increase in large herds could not happen without in itself posing some challenges to a disease eradication programme. But the bigger point is that it is simply absurd that the Department expenditure on TB is now no bigger than it was in 2012 at around €46 million. “You cannot plan for a 30% expansion in agri-food exports on the one hand and then assume that there will be no impact on costs on department programmes such as TB. So while the farmer contribution is increasing through testing more animals and through more levies, it is only fair and logical that the Department contribution should increase in line with the increase in agri-food exports to about €59 million, all other things being equal.

Of course, there is potentially a case that the Department could reduce expenditure through efficiencies and cutting out waste. However, ICSA has asked for a breakdown of where the TB scheme administration budget goes, and we have got no response yet. However, we are hopeful that the Grant Thornton review may come forward with some clarity on this.”

Mr Farrell also questioned the grounds for the EU funding cut. “Some of the figures look slightly worse such as herd incidence. However, according to the Department’s figures, the overall number of reactors for 2019 (17,058) actually went down compared to 2018 (17,491) – a drop of 433.”

The reality is that the loss of €900,000 in EU funding is a side issue compared to the bigger issues about whether the administration of the TB programme is efficient or whether the issue of deer in TB spread is being properly faced up to. Farmers are very frustrated that TB is still very prevalent in areas where deer is a factor and the Department remains in denial about the role of deer. 

ENDS

DEMAND MORE FROM FACTORIES AS CATTLE NUMBERS REMAIN TIGHT – ICSA

15 MAY 2020

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has said despite the slight increase in cattle prices this week, processors have more to give. “The pressure is on the factories at the minute; markets are opening up and agents are competing for cattle. Reports are coming in that €3.70/kg is increasingly attainable for certain types of stock and with numbers still tight, the scope is there for farmers to look for that bit more on price. ICSA believes there is significantly more available,” he said.

“Demand at retail level continues to be up and McDonalds and other restaurant chains are coming back into play. ICSA also understands that with some beef exports from Australia to China suspended temporarily, factories here are on the lookout for Chinese spec cattle to fill any possible void. These factors coupled with the squeeze on numbers gives us a fighting chance at a decent price, but we’ll still have to fight for it.”

ENDS

FARMERS URGED NOT TO MISS OUT ON NEW AND IMPROVED BEEP-S SCHEME

13 MAY 2020

ICSA Suckler chair Ger O’Brien has urged farmers not to miss out on the new and improved BEEP-S scheme, and to get their completed applications in before Friday’s deadline (15 May). “Applying is simple; once you log in to your AgFood account the whole process should take a few minutes at most. A hard won extra €35m was pumped into the scheme in last year’s budget, so all suckler farmers need to get on board and secure this payment for their farms,” he said.

“The mandatory component of the scheme involves weighing cows and calves and will provide a payment of €50 per cow/calf for the first 10, and €40 each for the remainder. Through the optional actions, an additional €30 is available for either a pre-weaning meal feeding programme or for vaccinating stock. On top of this, another €10 is available for doing faecal egg testing on dung samples.”

“Suckler farmers who complete all the mandatory and optional actions under the scheme can therefore receive a total payment of €90 per cow for the first 10 cows and €80 for the remainder, up to a limit of 100 cows.”

“All in all, the measures required are sensible ones, and ones that will lead to less stress for calves at weaning time which in turn will benefit buyers, including Irish finishers and live exporters. Taking samples will also assist in ensuring that dosing is much more targeted and will help counteract immunity from dosing products.”

Concluding Mr O’Brien said, “In the face of relentless bad news, this is a scheme not to be missed.”

ENDS

ICSA CONCERNS ABOUT EU COMMISSION PROPOSALS ON COVID EMERGENCY FUNDING

12 MAY 2020
 
ICSA CONCERNS ABOUT EU COMMISSION PROPOSALS ON COVID EMERGENCY FUNDING 

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has expressed concern at a proposal emanating from the European Commission to raid the rural development (Pillar 2) budget to create emergency Covid funding for farmers and SMEs. “While ICSA is adamant that emergency funding for farmers is urgent owing to the devastating impact on markets caused by Covid, it is unacceptable to pretend that this proposal is actually helping. This proposal is effectively paying farmers to keep quiet with their own money.”

“In addition, while it provides for a maximum lump sum payment of €5,000 for a farmer, it also provides for up to €50,000 for an SME involved in the marketing of agri-produce. So to be clear, there will be less money in future rural development programmes for schemes like GLAS and TAMS if this proposal goes ahead. This is not helping farmers, it is simply taking from future income to prop them up today.”

“ICSA again reiterates that the Taoiseach needs to prioritise working with his EU counterparts to create an extraordinary fund for extraordinary times. We have the appalling scenario where a massive cut is being contemplated for the CAP which would be unacceptable even without the pandemic and the best the EU can come up with is to use this diminishing fund to deal with an unparalleled crisis. ICSA is calling on all parties to the government negotiations to set out their positions on how farmers should be assisted to cope with the disastrous impact of Covid-19.”

ENDS

EXPANDED ORGANICS SCHEME AND PUSH FOR NEW MARKETS ARE KEY TO MAXIMISE POTENTIAL

7 MAY 2020

ICSA Organics chair Fergal Byrne has said a twin-track approach is needed for the sector that would see more cattle and sheep farmers moving into organic farming, coupled with a determined effort to expand export markets for organic produce.

“At present we have approximately 2,000 organic farmers utilising just 1.5% of our total agricultural land. This is far too low and nowhere near in line with an expected shift in EU policy that would demand up to 25% of agricultural land to be farmed organically by 2030, as part of its Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy.”

“It is very apparent that we need to introduce a far more ambitious Organics Scheme that would include far greater numbers of cattle and sheep farmers. In parallel with this, a drive to secure adequate markets for our produce is vital. As it is, we are struggling to find markets for what is produced on just 1.5% of land, and achieve a return for the extra costs associated with farming organically.”

“Currently prices for organic cattle have slumped considerably, and with no let-up in organic feed input or other costs any added value we should be getting for our stock has all but disappeared. We cannot expect farmers to adopt new methods and increase their costs if the end price is just not there.”

“Organic produce, particularly organic beef and lamb, are high in nutrients and a rich source of natural antibodies. It is beyond comprehension that other countries have harnessed these attributes and expanded organic production and brought markets with them, yet we are falling so far behind. We know farmers are willing to get on board but we also need to see a concerted effort from Department of Agriculture, from Bord Bia and from our meat processors to drive this sector forward.”

ENDS