APPROVAL OF ADDITIONAL BEEF PLANTS FOR CHINESE MARKET MUST DELIVER FOR PRIMARY PRODUCERS

21 OCTOBER 2019

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has said the approval of a further 14 beef plants to export to the Chinese market will only be good news if it translates into better prices for farmers. “We know the Chinese market is an important one, but we need to see the primary producers benefitting from it,” he said.

“It’s not good enough to expect the producer to simply produce more for no extra gain while others reap all the rewards. It should also be acknowledged that despite heated tempers during the blockades, factory visits by the Chinese delegation were ultimately facilitated by protesting farmers, and this is the outcome.”

ENDS

ICSA WANTS COMPULSORY BVD TESTING FOR IMPORTED CATTLE

15 OCTOBER 2019

ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chairman Hugh Farrell has said that compulsory BVD testing is required for all imported cattle.  “Every calf born in Ireland is required to be BVD tested. Farmers have complied assiduously with this requirement and their efforts are reflected in the fact that we have gone from 0.77% positives in 2013 to 0.04% positives so far in 2019.”

“We now need to get to a position as soon as possible where annual compulsory testing is no longer necessary for the very many herds which have never had a positive BVD calf. However, at this point, we need to be careful about letting BVD in the back door.”

ICSA believes that the BVD regulations need to be amended to ensure full testing of all imported stock.  “It doesn’t make sense that all Irish born calves have to be done, even in herds with a long history of being BVD free, while cattle can come in from abroad and only have to be tested if they are being sold to another herd.”

ENDS

TASKFORCE WILL NOT COMMENCE UNTIL ALL LEGAL THREATS HAVE BEEN REMOVED

14 OCTOBER 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said the Beef Markets Taskforce cannot begin its work while injunctions hang over individual farmers. “ICSA decided at an early stage this morning that we could not attend the taskforce while injunctions remain in place.”

“ICSA does not condone physical clashes but the blame for the failure of today’s talks stands squarely with those meat processors who have so far refused to issue letters of discontinuance in respect of certain individual farmers.”

“There is no way these talks will commence until all legal threats have been removed.”

ENDS

ICSA SAYS FARMERS DOUBT COMMITMENT OF MEAT FACTORIES TO BEEF AGREEMENT

14 OCTOBER 2019

In advance of the first meeting of the Beef Market Taskforce, ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said that farmers are already beginning to doubt the commitment of meat factories to the deal done last month. “Farmers are outraged that new, more severe weight penalties have been introduced without consultation. They are also alarmed that all injunctions have not been set aside and the threat of legal penalties and costs still hangs over the heads of farmers.”

“ICSA is insisting that the meat industry must immediately demonstrate good faith, by dropping all legal threats. New and severe penalties on weights are a breach of the agreement already reached and we want these issues dealt without delay. ICSA is also insisting that transparency around pricing throughout the food chain must be central to the work of the taskforce.”

ENDS

IMPROVED BREXIT VIBES DON’T SOLVE FUTURE TRADING RELATIONSHIPS FOR BEEF

11 OCTOBER 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said that while the more positive vibes on Brexit following the meeting of Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson are welcome in terms of the border, there are still worries about the future trading relationship between Ireland and the UK.

“Any scenario where Northern Ireland effectively stays in the EU Customs zone solves the border problem because checks won’t be necessary for North/South trade. However, the implication seems to be that Great Britain excluding Northern Ireland will be outside the customs union. This means that there is still a considerable uncertainty about whether there will be tariffs on Irish beef exports to Britain or alternatively that there could be massive imports of tariff free beef from South America to the British market.”

“On a more positive note, the immediate threat of no-deal Brexit seems to have been averted and moreover, there is potential, at the very least, for the implementation of a transition phase of two years or more so that the beef market can be stabilised in the short term.”

“Beef farmers will want to see this turn into increased prices for cattle given that a pound sterling has already improved by 3 cents since the Varadkar/Johnson meeting and there is a better prospect of sterling stabilising or improving further relative to the euro in the short to medium term. A 3% increase in the value of sterling should equate to a 10 cent per kg increase in beef price.”

ENDS

MINISTER MUST ENSURE LEGAL THREATS ARE REMOVED IN ADVANCE OF TASKFORCE MEETING

11 OCTOBER 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said Minister Michael Creed must ensure that all injunctions are removed in advance of Monday’s inaugural meeting of the Beef Markets Taskforce. “It was agreed at the beef crisis talks that beef processors would withdraw all legal proceedings against farm organisations and/or individual farmers upon farmer protests being stood down.”

“While farmers have upheld their side of the bargain, it is our understanding that written confirmation has not been received by those affected that would indicate the complete withdrawal of legal threats. ICSA does not want to see the work of the taskforce undermined by this and we would urge the Minister to seek clarity from the meat processors on this issue in advance of Monday.”

ENDS

ICSA OUTRAGED AS FACTORY PENALTIES CONTINUE TO MOUNT FOR SHEEP FARMERS

11 OCTOBER 2019

ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara has said he is outraged at the new low to which factories have stooped with the introduction of new penalties on lambs over 21.5kg. Mr McNamara said, “It has come to our attention that severe penalties are now being applied to so-called overweight lambs. Not only will lambs above the 21.5kg mark not be paid out on the excess weight, but they are also now being cut on the base price. This is effectively introducing a lamb pricing grid, without consultation, and is an absolute disgrace.”

Commenting further Mr McNamara said, “Cuts of 40 to 50 cent are being imposed on the base price for lambs above 21.5kg. You could be hit for over €10 a lamb at this rate and that’s on top of prices being way down over the course of the last year. For too long factories have gotten away with refusing to pay out over a certain weight and have profited significantly from doing so. They have essentially been taking product for free and selling it on. Imposing this extra penalty is just adding insult to injury.”

“Not only this, but lambs coming in under the 21.5kg mark with a U4 or R4 fat rating are also being hit with a 40c penalty. Loading penalties on top of penalties is totally unacceptable and something that factories should not be allowed to get away with it. It is an outrageous way to treat loyal suppliers who have turned up at factory gates this week, only to be hit with these over the top cuts.”

ENDS

EXTENSION TO SLURRY SPREADING DEADLINE NOW A REQUIREMENT

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.”

ENDS

BREXIT UNCERTAINTY CONTINUES FOR FARMERS AFTER TODAY’S BUDGET

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).”

ENDS

BEEF MARKETS TASKFORCE MUST DELIVER REAL RESULTS

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.”

ENDS