URGENT ACTION REQUIRED AS LOAN SELL-OFFS BY PILLAR BANKS RAMP UP

15 FEBRUARY 2018

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has said he is appalled at the decision by Permanent TSB to place €4.5bn of its loans on the market. Commenting on the move Mr Sherlock said, “Selling off these loans at a fraction of their value means the vultures will be circling around in no time, looking to make big money at the expense of hard pressed families.”

“The volume of the loans being off-loaded is extremely alarming. The outlook for those who find themselves in the position of having their loans sold off can only be described as grim. Any protection they had will be grossly undermined by being forced to deal with new loan masters whose only interest is to profit from them.”

Continuing Mr Sherlock said, “There is also a real danger of other banks following suit. I would implore upon any of the other banks who may be thinking of doing the same to reconsider. We cannot allow countless homes and family farms to be put up for grabs in a free for all. Negotiating any reasonable solution with private equity firms is notoriously difficult when all they are interested in are quick sales with people who find themselves in precarious situations.”

“ICSA has been assisting farming families whose loans have been sold on, but the numbers look likely to skyrocket unless we can call time on throwing people under the bus like this. I am calling on Minister Paschal Donohue to intervene as a matter of urgency.”

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ANY MOVE TO REDUCE CAP BUDGET POST 2020 MUST BE VIGOUROUSLY OPPOSED

14 FEBRUARY 2018

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said he is alarmed at soundings coming from Brussels that a reduced CAP budget post 2020 could be on the cards. “Maintaining the CAP budget has to be an absolute priority and I would urge Minister Creed, Taoiseach Varadkar and Commissioner Hogan to vigorously oppose any such move.”

A list of options set out in an EU Commission budget document published earlier today suggested that savings to the overall EU budget to tune of €60bn could be made if the CAP budget was reduced by 15%. This figures rises to €120bn in savings with a 30% cut to CAP spending.

Mr Kent said he was horrified that a reduced CAP budget would even be contemplated, given the challenges facing the agriculture sector. “ICSA has been calling for an increase to the CAP budget to meet those challenges. The pressure is on with Brexit uncertainty, international trade deals and an increasing onus on farmers with regard to climate change. It is unconscionable that any cut in CAP payments could even be considered.”

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ICSA WELCOMES ANNOUNCEMENT ON ANC BUT SAYS REAL DEBATE WILL BE ON ANC REFORM

14 FEBRUARY 2018

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has welcomed the announcement by Minister Creed regarding the allocation of €25m in additional ANC funding announced in Budget 2018. “ICSA is pleased to see some certainty regarding this additional money and is broadly supportive of a strategy to favour farmers facing the biggest challenges.”

Mr Sherlock added that the reform of the ANC scheme on biophysical criteria would likely mean that the decision on the €25 million was only a stop gap measure. “The challenge now is to look at the ANC reform for 2019 and to think about this in terms of a new CAP post 2020. This will be the real debate. ICSA wants to see the ANC deliver more money to the most disadvantaged farmers, particularly low income cattle and sheep farmers. The future ANC should take account of the huge challenge posed to farmers on heavy land where rainfall patterns are getting worse and winter feeding periods are longer and longer.”

“We need to reflect on the fact that the ANC payment used to be a real income boost for suckler and sheep farmers twenty years ago but that it has been gradually watered down to a point where its value has been significantly eroded. ICSA wants to see ANC make a real difference again and this means putting more resources into the most disadvantaged farmers.”

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ICSA CALLS ON TEAGASC TO HELP SORT OUT CLP DEBACLE

13 FEBRUARY 2018

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has said it is time for Teagasc to advise on different systems of fattening lambs and prepping them for slaughter if the way sheep farmers have been doing it for decades is suddenly no longer acceptable under the Clean Livestock Policy for sheep (CLP).

Following a live demonstration of CLP in practice at Kepak Athleague last night, Mr Brooks said, “Distinguishing Category A sheep is straightforward enough, however confusion arises as sheep in Categories B and C are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Moreover, a Category B sheep on a dry day would be deemed Category C on a wet day.”

“We know Teagasc Research have been fattening lambs and finishing them out using variety of systems. ICSA would like to know if Teagasc have done any CLP scoring on the different systems given that this policy has been on the cards for a number of years now. If they have I would urge them to publicise those findings. At this point farmers need advice on possibly changing elements of their systems and their preparations for slaughter, rather than have all these lambs deemed unsuitable at the point of slaughter.”

“The policy has resulted in lambs either being shorn on-site or being removed from plants for shearing at nearby facilities before returning to factory lairages where they are left shivering until they can be processed. This is unacceptable from an animal welfare perspective and indeed may well impact the kill out weight as well as the meat quality. In any event, all financial repercussions of this unworkable policy are then being passed on to the producer.”

“In addition, our understanding is that internal lists of sheep farmers whose stock has been turned away are being compiled. ICSA would have questions as to what are the implications for anyone appearing on that list or how that information will be shared.”

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OPTIONS FOR BEEF FARMERS THIS WEEK AS FACTORIES AND LIVE SHIPPERS ANXIOUS FOR CATTLE

12 FEBRUARY 2018

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has said demand for cattle has picked up this week and has urged farmers to sell hard. “Factories are anxious for cattle at the moment so there is room to bargain hard,” he said.

“Two boats will also leave the country towards the end of the month, one going to Libya and the other to Turkey. Cattle are actively being sought by live exporters to fill these contracts so there are options there.”

“Unlike previous contracts, this contract for Turkey is for heavier forward store cattle rather than the 300kg weanlings which were a feature of previous contracts. For Libya the focus is more on Friesian bulls around the 400kg mark.”

“In addition, I want to remind farmers that their cattle don’t necessarily have to be sold on the grid. It is possible to negotiate a flat price per kilo directly with the factory so this is always worth bearing in mind.”

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ICSA CALLS ON MINISTER TO INTERVENE ON CLP AS KEPAK SUSPENDS LAMB PROCESSING

12 FEBRUARY 2018

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has called on Minister Creed to intervene in light of the news that Kepak has suspended processing of lamb due to difficulties surrounding the Clean Livestock Policy (CLP) for sheep. “ICSA  has spent the last number of weeks highlighting that this policy cannot work in its current format. Today’s shutdown by Kepak unfortunately proves this point.”

Mr Brooks said, “At this point nothing short of an intervention from Minister Michael Creed will suffice. This is an absolute disaster for our important sheep export sector. We can’t blame Kepak because it is clear that what has been going on in recent days is total gridlock which no business could sustain. This move by Kepak must be taken seriously and CLP will have to be have to be modified without delay.”

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RESTRICTIONS ON ACCESS TO FODDER TRANSPORT SCHEME MUST BE LIFTED

9 FEBRUARY 2018

Following a meeting with Teagasc officials in Longford today (9 Feb) on the Fodder Transport Scheme, ICSA is urging farmers to complete a Forage Budget form through their local Teagasc office or FAS approved advisor in order for the scheme to be fully activated in affected counties.

Commenting on today’s meeting ICSA Cavan chairman Hugh Farrell said, “For regions or whole counties to access the scheme, local Teagasc officials have to be satisfied that adequate fodder is not available locally and must be transported in from another part of the country. The only way they can be satisfied of this need is through farmers completing a Forage Budget form in sufficient numbers.”

“This means that farmers who wish to access the scheme are prohibited from doing so if enough of their county neighbours haven’t also expressed a need. Essentially, farmers are operating in the dark with regards to this scheme as it will not be activated in an area until a magic, undisclosed number has been reached.”

ICSA Sligo chairman Gabriel Gilmartin added, “ICSA believes that this goes against the whole spirit of the scheme which was to help farmers in dire need and to prevent animal welfare issues down the line. The Department needs to reconsider the overly restrictive parameters of the scheme and open it up to any farmer who needs fodder.”

This was echoed by Jim Harrison, ICSA Connacht/Ulster VP, who said, “There is no reason for the scheme not to be fully operational. Those of us in the border counties can’t wait any longer.”

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NEWS OF A REPLACEMENT SHIP WELCOME BUT CAPACITY REMAINS AN ISSUE

7 FEBRUARY 2018

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has welcomed the procurement of a ship to carry calves to the continent while the Stena Horizon goes into dry dock on 20 February. “ICSA met with Department officials on this issue last week. At that point, there was still considerable uncertainty surrounding the replacement vessel so the efforts of all involved to sort this issue must be commended.”

However, Mr Graham said, “The capacity of the replacement ship remains an issue as we don’t yet have clarification on the number of trucks it can carry. If it does not have the capacity of the Horizon we may have problems shipping the volumes necessary. At a time when we really want to be increasing our calf exports, all this confusion about the ship has been very unhelpful.”

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ICSA CONCERNED AT UNWORKABLE INTERPRETATION OF CLEAN LIVESTOCK POLICY FOR SHEEP

2 FEBRUARY 2018

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has said he has deep reservations about the roll out of the Clean Livestock Policy for Sheep as processors threaten to turn sheep away from Monday. “ICSA understands that from this coming Monday a huge clampdown will come into effect with meat factories refusing to accept sheep and lambs they consider dirty.”

Mr Brooks said he was calling on Minister Creed and his Department to pull back on an “unworkable and overly strict interpretation of this policy and to instead opt for a more reasoned approach.”

Continuing Mr Brooks said, “There has been a deficit of information from the Department regarding this policy from the outset. The images of Category B sheep that were issued are almost indistinguishable from those in Category C. At the very least there should have been live demonstrations held on farms or at meat plants to eliminate any confusion for everyone involved.”

“It is outrageous that lambs that were perfectly acceptable this week will be blocked next week. All the blame has unfairly been put onto the farmer when the reality is that Teagasc has a role to play, processors have a role to play and the Department has a role to play. There needs to be a more planned approach to this and for solutions to be found with the coordinated efforts of all. However, it is too late to work on these solutions in time for Monday. It is disgraceful that a clampdown on this policy be thrust upon farmers in the middle of the lamb fattening season when systems that have been used for decades are in full swing.”

“In addition, we have no information about what will happen to animals that are turned away bearing in mind that owners may be hundreds of miles away from the meat plants. We also need clarification on whether animals turned away can legally be removed from the factory lairage and returned to the farm. What we do know is that it has the potential to significantly impact the sheep farmer financially.”

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MONAGHAN BEEF FARMER EDMUND GRAHAM ELECTED ICSA BEEF CHAIR

30 JANUARY 2018

Monaghan beef farmer Edmund Graham has been elected ICSA national beef chairman by the association’s National Executive. The vote took place at ICSA’s AGM and Annual Conference which took place in Abbeyleix, Co Laois last week. Hailing from Ballyleck in Co Monaghan, Mr Graham focuses primarily on his weanling to beef and stores to beef enterprises.

Following his election Mr Graham was firm that his focus would be on improving prices for beef farmers. “Farmer trust in the grid system continues to be a major issue. The system is outdated and needs to be replaced with a model that that fully utilises modern digital technology. ICSA understands that some preliminary work on this issue is in the pipeline with trials involving new technology being tested by processors, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture.

This could be a significant step towards facilitating a payment based on meat yield and could potentially result in the farmer getting a price in closer alignment with what is sold on the shelf. ICSA will be seeking clarification on these trials at the upcoming Beef Forum”

In addition Mr Graham said “Pushing on with live exports and gaining access to new markets is crucial. However, recent Bord Bia figures indicating the value of the fifth quarter has brought some clarity on just how much processors are benefitting from its sale. With more Asian markets opening up, this is an area that will have to be revisited.”

Mr Graham said he would also be keeping up the pressure to ensure vast quantities of extra South American are kept out of European markets. “It is unthinkable for beef quotas to be considered in the Mercosur trade talks with continuing uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Any concession would show a reckless disregard for the beef sector.”

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