16 AUGUST 2018

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has said that sheep farmers right around the country are struggling to have their lambs slaughtered with factories fully booked up. “We are seeing big throughput numbers of sheep, however, questions about the origin of these sheep are arising.”

Continuing Mr Brooks said, “ICSA has been getting reports of extra quantities of lamb coming down from the north of Ireland for slaughter in the south. Sheep from across the border have always been brought down here but the larger numbers are getting out of hand. They are having too much of a knock on effect with farmers in the south having difficulty getting their own slaughtered. As far as we can see, this is just another ploy to keep prices down at a time when farmers are suffering due to drought costs.”

“This again brings up labelling issues and puts at risk the whole idea of traceability, origin green and quality assurance. It also shows a complete lack of respect for both the producer and the consumer. Our cattle don’t enjoy the same welcome in the north, certainly not under the same terms and conditions.”



13 AUGUST 2018

ICSA animal health and welfare chairman Hugh Farrell has said that the TB situation in Monaghan is a matter of real concern. Reacting to figures from the Department which show that the rate of reactors per 1,000 in Monaghan is 5.12 compared to a national average of 1.87, Mr Farrell said that “farmers in Monaghan are getting very frustrated at a TB situation that looks like it will get worse before it gets better.”

“ICSA wants to see a comprehensive strategy to ensure that the wildlife sources are dealt with efficiently and quickly. While farmers will endure the full brunt of restrictions, this cannot be done in isolation from other measures. Badgers and increasingly, wild deer are implicated in TB spread and any strategy must deal with all sources of infection.”

“ICSA also believes that the Department must ensure that reactors are removed from farms as quickly as possible. It is not acceptable to leave reactors on a farm for three weeks or more. ICSA is also concerned that the fodder crisis has added to the pressure on farmers with reactors who are left unable to sell stock as usual due to TB. We will be pressing for an improved hardship payment especially for suckler farmers and store producers who have no monthly milk cheque and who cannot offload finished cattle. Suckler farmers who have mainly weanlings to sell and store producers live in fear of a TB outbreak and in a year like this when feed is scarce, they are really vulnerable.”



7 AUGUST 2018

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has said while some sense has prevailed with regard to mandatory EID tagging for all sheep, the substantive issues have not gone away. Mr Brooks was responding to amendments to the scheme announced by Minister Michael Creed this morning.

“With a new start date of June 2019 for the introduction of EID mandatory tagging, the Minister is essentially just kicking the can down the road. The extra costs associated will be on-going for sheep farmers so if the Department and the meat industry wish to proceed with this, they should pay for it on an on-going basis.”

ICSA has calculated that mandatory EID tagging will add some €2.5 million cost to sheep farmers, based on additional costs of €1/lamb and a throughput of some 2.5 million lambs/annum. However, the average profit per lamb is about €14, based on an annual average price of €100 or €4.80/kg over the past five years. It costs the average Teagasc profit monitor farmer €86 to produce a lamb. So when the Minister adds €1 cost to a lamb producing €14 profit, he is imposing a 7% income cut.

“There is absolutely no appetite among sheep farmers for this as costs are continually rising while incomes are falling. In addition, EID tagging won’t alter the current batch system of traceability that meat plants use after slaughter. ICSA therefore believes it is disingenuous to imply that mandatory tagging is a requirement to access a myriad of new markets. Indeed, relevant bodies now have until next June to show us exactly what additional markets they can secure based on mandatory EID alone. That will be the real proof.”



3 AUGUST 2018

ICSA tillage chairman Gavin Carberry has welcomed the announcement this afternoon from Minister Michael Creed that an incentive scheme has been put in place to assist tillage farmers with the production of additional fodder. “ICSA has been adamant over recent weeks that support measures for tillage farmers were urgently needed. It is encouraging that the Minister has listened to these calls, and is now putting some of those measures in place.”

Under the initiative tillage farmers will receive €155/ha for additional ground sown to short term grasses and €100/ha for catch crops such as fodder rape, turnips etc., in excess of what was already committed to under GLAS. This will be payable on areas from 3-50 ha. In addition, it will be permissible to sow Italian Ryegrass. While there will be no grant aid specifically for Italian Ryegrass, farmers will be able to use it to bolster their own fodder supplies as well as selling it on as silage. It is vital that the incentive is in place immediately with no red tape so that farmers can get the crops sown without delay.”

“It is right that the Minister is encouraging maximum production of home grown fodder. Tillage farmers can be part of the solution and it serves as a reminder that we should not put all our eggs in one basket when it comes to the agri-food strategy. In the longer term, we need to seriously examine how to reverse the decline in cereal growing in Ireland because we need more home grown feed not less.”



3 AUGUST 2018

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said a pilot scheme promoting Micro Generation launched by Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment lacks the necessary ambition. Under the Micro Generation scheme, domestic customers can apply for grant aid to install solar panels on their homes.

Commenting Mr Kent said, “For the scheme to have real impact, grants for solar panels on farm sheds need to be included. There is ample space available on the roofs of farm sheds around the country to accommodate enough solar panels to make a real difference in terms of generating energy, provided the goal is to enable farmers to sell surplus back to the grid.”

“While domestic customers would have the opportunity to reduce their annual energy bills, energy produced on the scale farm sheds would generate far more renewable electricity than they could ever consume themselves. If we are serious about reaching renewable energy targets, we need more ambition and we need it now.”

“Farmers are more than willing to play their role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Grant aid applied to farm buildings, coupled with the option to sell back to the grid is an opportunity that should not be overlooked.”



2 AUGUST 2018

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has welcomed the signing of a contract with the Wicklow Uplands Council for the provision of Deer Management Services in the Wicklow Region. Mr Sherlock said, “This is indeed a step in the right direction, however it must be viewed as just that, a step. Primarily, it is an important acknowledgement by both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht that ‘unsustainable deer populations have the potential to impact adversely on agriculture’, but we must go further.

“The consequences of uncontrolled deer populations in Wicklow have been felt for too long by local farmers. Grazing pastures and feed supplies are being mercilessly raided on a daily basis. This is coupled with the above average number of TB reactor cattle in those areas populated by deer and amounts to an intolerable situation for many. Mandatory TB testing on culled deer must be made a priority.”

“There is no doubt that these farmers have felt abandoned in recent years as the deer multiplied.”

ICSA Wicklow chairman Tom Stephenson added, “Regrettably, there is no funding provided for professional shooters to assist with the deer management process. Deer numbers have risen to completely unmanageable levels and leisure shooters cannot possibly deliver an adequate impact.”



2 AUGUST 2018

ICSA president Patrick Kent has welcomed confirmation by EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan that state aid could be provided to deal with the damage caused by the drought and that flexibilities around GLAS rules should be forthcoming. “ICSA has already called for a hardship fund to help those most affected by the drought, particularly low income cattle and sheep farmers and cereal growers. It is now time for the Minister to take immediate action.”

“The Commissioner has indicated that support to fix drought problems is possible which includes buying fodder. He has confirmed that the purchase of fodder can qualify for aid as either material damage or income loss. However, this now requires a commitment from the Irish government to put some funding in place. This will be a real test of whether the government cares about the incredible hardships faced by farmers this year. ICSA is not looking for an open cheque book; we want aid targeted at the most vulnerable farmers in the less profitable sectors.”

“ICSA also welcomes the positive response for flexibilities around schemes and derogations from greening requirements. For example, it has already been confirmed by the Commission that there will be derogations from the three crop rule and to allow land lying fallow under ecological focus areas to be used for growing feed. ICSA also wants to see farmers to be allowed wrap bales on LIPP areas in GLAS and to have the deadline for spreading fertiliser extended beyond 15 September. We also need flexibility to allow tillage farmers to sow westerwolds or other Italian ryegrasses under GLAS cover crops.”



1 AUGUST 2018

ICSA suckler chairman John Halley has said that it is increasingly likely that a targeted aid package for farmers who are suffering acutely from the drought will have to be considered. “While the impact of the drought to date has been widespread, the longer term consequences will vary significantly according to farm enterprise and depending on location. For some farmers, the consequences are potentially disastrous and ICSA is particularly concerned about suckler farmers who will not be able to cope because income levels have been low for so many years.”

“Breeding farms have a bigger challenge than trading farms when it comes to a fodder crisis because the impact of selling breeding cows is to destroy a lifetime’s work. Whereas dairy farms do have a lot of support from co-ops and also the benefit of cash reserves from last year, no such comfort exists for suckler farms. However, we must recognise that the situation can still be rescued on many farms if sufficient rain falls in the coming weeks.”

“However, over the past week, the rainfall levels have varied significantly and moisture deficit charts show significant differences between counties. So it is clear that part of the solution will have to involve supports being targeted at vulnerable suckler farmers, particularly those in areas where the worst impact of drought persists.”

“ICSA is very concerned that the drought has already impacted fertility and calf growth rates in many suckler herds. These impacts cannot be overcome in the short-term and the potential hit on suckler income is massive if weanlings have not reached their normal performance targets in herds dependent on selling weanlings. There is also a growing concern that the massive effort to decrease calving interval in suckler herds will be reversed. Whereas dairy farmers can supplement with meals, the economics of sucklers means that feeding substantial quantities of meal to suckler cows was never a runner. While the cows are looking okay, we cannot say yet how much this will impact fertility.”

“It is increasingly clear for example, that the BDGP targets will have to be reviewed and that the shortfall in funding uptake must be retained in the scheme. Farmers will need flexibility to allow them to sell surplus stock even if it means not meeting the four and five star targets in 2018. ICSA is also insisting that the underspend in the BDGP is put back in and we believe a very strong case can be made to the Commission on this.”



31 JULY 2018

ICSA president Patrick Kent has called for an urgent review of market support measures such the Aids to Private Storage (APS) scheme for beef, in light of the current drought crisis. “Drought conditions are causing a myriad of problems for beef farmers so it is imperative that we look at all possible options to avert a crisis. APS could provide a means for getting prime cattle moving through the factories in sufficient numbers in a manner that wouldn’t distort the market significantly.”

However, for that to happen, there needs to be a fundamental rethink of the EU price support mechanisms in the case of extreme weather crises.

The aim of the APS scheme is to facilitate producers to store product for a stipulated period of time, with product then released back into the market at a later stage. However, Mr Kent said, “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. “At present, the price support instruments of intervention or private storage are too blunt and of no use for the beef sector.  Dairy reference prices are set at levels which mean that they can sometimes help the dairy sector but the beef levels are not fit for purpose.”

“While the strategy of EU policy is to move towards risk management rather than price support, the reality is that farmers, particularly in vulnerable sectors like cattle and sheep, cannot sacrifice any existing direct payments to fund risk insurance. In any event, a properly functioning APS could help both dairy and beef sectors by taking out surplus cows on a short-term basis when there is surplus cattle going to factories due to a fodder crisis. This could yet end up being a welfare calamity for both farmer and animal. Essentially, we need to go back to the drawing board on a safety net for beef.”

“We have seen a big increase in the numbers of cows being presented for slaughter which has caused a bottleneck at meat plants. Factories are lapping up the opportunity to buy in lighter carcass dairy cows cheaply but the knock-on effects are hitting the wider beef sector hard. With the oversupply of cull cows predicted to continue indefinitely, the prime cattle trade is being undermined. This, coupled with ever increasing input costs, means there can be no doubt that a support mechanism to underpin the market in times of severe crisis is badly needed.”

“A new approach could involve state assistance for storage being sanctioned by Brussels which would involve derogation from state aid rules. The problem with one size fits all is that there is significant difference in price levels across the EU-27. Whereas we have to be careful not to distort the single market, on the other hand, we have to get flexibility to deal with an extreme crisis such as the drought where the welfare of farmers and of animals takes precedence over economic orthodoxy.”



30 JULY 2018

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has said that there is a still a major sticking point in relation to the Fair Deal Scheme. “ICSA welcomes the move to limit contributions from a family business to three years of nursing home care. However, there is a major question mark about the constitutionality of taking funding from the forced sale of land from a person who is not actually the beneficiary of the nursing home care.”

“This arises because there is currently a five year look back clause under the Fair Deal Scheme. This means that where a farmer transfers a farm to his son and daughter before the nursing home care need emerges, the successor is still liable for the bill by way of having a burden on the farm. There are many examples where this is manifestly unfair. It implies that liability for nursing home care is exclusively applied to the farming child and not the other children of the person in the nursing home.”

“It is outrageously unfair that a farm which was transferred in good faith and totally unencumbered could possibly acquire a large encumbrance in the form of nursing home fees without even the consent of the transferee. However, the more interesting question is whether it is constitutional? If the parent sold the farm, the new owner would be entitled to unencumbered title and there could be no look back clause so why not in the case of a properly executed transfer? ICSA is urging Minister Daly to take this opportunity to build on the good work he has already done by remedying this anomaly. Otherwise it is only a matter of time before it is challenged in the courts, in our view.”