24 JULY 2019

ICSA suckler chair John Halley has said it is overly simplistic to advise that suckler numbers be reduced to mitigate climate change. Responding to proposals in the recently published Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) report, Mr Halley said, “There is no point in cutting suckler numbers if it’s just to increase dairy numbers. There is also no point in cutting our suckler numbers so beef can be produced more inefficiently elsewhere in the world. None of this makes sense.”

Continuing Mr Halley said, “It’s not good enough for farmers to take all the pain of meeting our national climate objectives when they do not have viable alternatives. It is okay for John Fitzgerald (Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council) to say there are other ways for suckler farmers to make money, but we would like him to explain exactly what they are. It remains the case that unless there are viable policies and strategies in place to make money out of renewable gas or selling electricity back to the grid from solar panels, or sufficient supports for biofuels, particularly the move to E10 biofuel, there simply are no alternatives.”

“It will also never be the case that these alternatives will provide a panacea for suckler farmers. If we are serious about a transition to alternative income streams then additional financial supports would be necessary to accommodate that. It must be remembered that our suckler farmers are the back bone of our multi-billion euro beef industry and to suggest that they and their numbers be arbitrarily sacrificed is shameful. it is simply not realistic to think that these talented farmers can just bale out of the industry.”

“Moreover, climate change mitigation requires a multi-industry approach. The Irish agriculture sector is more than willing to adapt to evolving and more environmentally sustainable practices and to this end farmers will always respond to the right incentives. It’s beyond hypocritical to single out agriculture when we have not seen anything like the same commitment from the aviation and industrial sectors, amongst others.”



24 JULY 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said farm income projections from the Teagasc Mid-Year Outlook Report reinforce the position that the €100m in beef exceptional aid should go to beef finishers and sucker farmers only. “Beef incomes are expected to languish while dairy incomes are projected to bounce back significantly through 2019. Beef farmers remain under serious pressure and they continue to lose money hand over fist. ICSA is adamant that all exceptional aid funds should go to those farmers whose primary enterprise is beef, and those farmers only.”

“The expectation from the outset was always that beef finishers and suckler farmers would be the beneficiaries of this aid. They are completely dependent on the state of the beef trade and they are the ones who have suffered the greatest hardship from Brexit related price pressures. For this fund to have any real impact it must not be watered down by spreading it out to thinly. The priority now has to be channelling the funds to those it was always destined for and delivering it in the shortest possible timeframe.”



23 JULY 2019

ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chair Hugh Farrell has said the recent report from the TB Forum is incomplete in its current form and that the TB Forum still has much work to do. “ICSA accepts that a partial report of the TB Forum has been delivered to Minister Creed. However, the report remains substantially incomplete as the Forum has not reached any agreement regarding the financial aspects of the TB Eradication Programme. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” he said.

Continuing Mr Farrell said, “While Minister Creed has said he welcomes the report and ‘will be closely examining the proposals set out within it’, it is remiss of the Minister to say he will now be directing his officials ‘to immediately commence the development of a renewed TB Eradication Strategy.

“The work of the TB Forum involves two core strands. These are; Disease Policy and Compensation. While elements of the disease policy strand were agreed, none of the compensation issues have been resolved. A cost benefit analysis of the entire TB Eradication Programme has been commissioned by the Department on behalf of the Forum. This analysis will no doubt incur a significant cost and we must await its findings to progress the work of the Forum.”

“From the outset, ICSA has been resolute that disease policy and the overall financing of the TB Eradication Programme, including compensation measures, are inextricably linked. However, we have been frustrated by the Department’s lack of willingness to engage on compensation issues while they continued to push forward with disease policy measures that impose more restrictions on farmers. This report which focuses on disease policy alone is testament to that.”

Concluding Mr Farrell said, “It is clear further meetings of the TB Forum will be required to produce a final report which includes all aspects of the work of the Forum. Moving ahead with a renewed TB Eradication Strategy must not be considered at this time.”



22 JULY 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said the Beef Forum must be reconvened as a matter of urgency. Furthermore, Mr Phelan insisted that the retail sector must be included in those discussions if progress is to be made. “It’s time for retailers to step up to the plate and participate as stakeholders. Along with primary producers and processors, they are an integral part of the beef supply chain and there must be more openness and partnership if the industry is to survive,” he said.

Continuing Mr Phelan said, “The Beef Forum must reconvene, and it must work better. Last October ICSA, along with other farming organisations, did not attend the Forum. At that time, beef farmers had been dealing with processors savagely cutting prices week after week. These cuts continued and have now resulted in a €100m EU fund of exceptional aid. However, the time is now right to get back around the table and work collaboratively to get beef back from the brink.”

“Beef farmers can no longer be left to carry the can alone. Models of production up to now have all been based on one stakeholder, the primary producer, taking all the risk. This model has failed and it’s time to establish a new one before it’s too late for all concerned.”



17 JULY 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said the €100m fund available through the Beef Exceptional Aid Measures (BEAM) must be directed solely at the lowest farm income sectors. Mr Phelan said, “This fund must be for those whose primary farm enterprise is dependent on the state of the beef trade and who have suffered the greatest hardship from Brexit related price pressures. The expectation from the outset was that finishers and suckler farmers would be the beneficiaries.”

“Farm income figures for 2018 show that suckler farmers and beef finishers are on their knees. Average family farm income on suckler farms dipped to an estimated €8,318 in 2018 – a reduction of 22% on 2017, with beef finishers earning approximately €14,408, down 11% on the 2017. This is where the money must be directed. It is unconscionable to think that money would be diverted from these farmers to dairy farmers who despite having a relatively bad year themselves, still managed earnings of €61,273 in 2018. It defies logic for anyone to lobby for their inclusion in this particular exceptional aid measure.”

“The difference in annual incomes is clear for all to see and points directly at where the funds should go. There was a dairy rescue package a few years ago and there was no question of some of that money going to beef finishers or suckler farmers.”

“ICSA has many full-time finishers who feel very frustrated that the scheme is limited to 100 animals. These farmers who are fully dependent on their beef farming enterprise have seen losses of over €100/head on hundreds of animals.  Some of these farmers have lost in excess of €30,000 on this year’s trading and the limit of €10,000 will not go anywhere near meeting their losses. ICSA wants the limit increased to 200 animals which would be of massive benefit to full-time beef farmers and will benefit other farmers by keeping these farmers in business at the mart ringsides.”



11 JULY 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has broadly welcomed details on the distribution of the €100 million Beef Brexit aid package following a consultation meeting this morning with Minister Creed and his officials. The scheme is to be called Beef Exceptional Aid Measures – BEAM. Speaking after the meeting Mr Phelan said, “ICSA welcomes the general outline to pay finishers €100/ head and a payment for all suckler cows which calved in 2018.” However, Mr Phelan argued strongly against an upper limit of 100 head for finishers.

“ICSA wants to see an upper limit of 200 head because full time winter finishers have suffered massive losses and it is vital that they are back at the ring for the sake of all suckler and store producers.”

“ICSA argued that it is possible to increase the upper limit to 200 head without affecting the rate of €100/ head simply by explicitly excluding factory feedlots. The reality also is that not every single farmer will apply so this could be done while maintaining the commitment to pay the target rates to finishers and sucklers.”

“ICSA also welcomes the commitment to pay on cull cows finished in a beef herd. The cull suckler cow is a significant part of a suckler income. We have insisted that suckler cows, as well as other fat cattle, sold in a mart and slaughtered shortly afterwards would result in a payment to the farmer who sold in the mart. ICSA also recognises that farmers who specialise in fattening cows are important to the sector and that they have been hit by bad prices.”

ICSA expressed concern around the conditionality on the scheme, specifically the requirements on being a member of a QAS scheme or Agri-environment scheme, as well as the 5% stocking rate reduction for the year 2020-2021.

“Two-thirds of suckler farmers are not quality assured, although some of them will be in BDGP, GLAS or the organic scheme. While it is still possible for them to apply for the BQAS, we are concerned that this will act as a barrier.”

“On the stocking rate the Minister argued that most farmers could qualify by selling animals a month earlier but ICSA believes that this will be hard to achieve in practice and it could have unintended consequences for the trade.”

The following eligibility criteria was outlined by Department of Agriculture;

  • Dairy farmers are excluded from the scheme.
  • All finished animals over 12 months, to include heifers, steers, bulls and cull cows are eligible.
  • A payment of €100/hd for finished cattle is envisaged to a maximum of 100 head of cattle.
  • For sucklers, every cow that calved in 2018 will be eligible for a payment of €40/hd to a maximum of 40 cows.

In addition, conditionality measures will apply.

  • A 5% reduction in stocking rate in 2021 compared to 2019. The reference period for this will run from July 2018 to June 2019 (inclusive) to be compared with July 2020 to June 2021 (inclusive).
  • At the time of application, or before payment, those wishing to avail of the aid must be enrolled in an agri-environment scheme (e.g. GLAS/BDPG/Organic Scheme etc.) or be Bord Bia quality assured.



10 JULY 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has again slammed the monumental folly of allowing vast quantities of extra South American beef into the EU at a time when we have no idea what post-Brexit trading arrangements will be between the UK and Europe and when climate mitigation measures are being prioritised in both domestic and EU agendas. “Mercosur is quite simply, the wrong deal at the wrong time,” he said.

Mr Phelan will today attend a protest in Dublin in a show of solidarity with all those who oppose the deal.

Speaking ahead of the protest Mr Phelan said, “Beef farmers throughout the country are right to be aggrieved at this sell-out and the hypocrisy associated with it. The deal is especially galling in the context of a saturated beef market in Europe, coupled with declining consumption. The deal also completely undermines the EU’s moral authority to lead on climate change by displacing local beef with beef imported from thousands of miles away and which is causing destruction of rainforest while sustainable EU beef systems will be made completely unviable.”

“Our message here today is clear; we will not stand by while hard-working family run Irish beef farms are sacrificed in this manner.”



9 JULY 2019

ICSA sheep chairman Sean McNamara said he was hopeful that lamb price might stabilise following the association’s recent talks with Kepak. However, he reiterated that there is no future for sheep farming at current prices. He said that all sheep meat processors needed to find ways of getting farmers a better share of the cake. “Prices below €5/kg simply do not add up for any sheep farmer. No young farmer will be attracted into sheep farming at this year’s price level.”

“The really frustrating thing is that with lambs being scarce in Australia and New Zealand, sheep farmers down under are experiencing something of a boom on price. This explains why New Zealand is not even filling its quota for the EU because demand is going so well in Asian markets.”

“In fact one processor in New Zealand is offering a contract for lambs in August at a price of NZ$9/kg (€5.31/kg). While there may be some demand issues in Europe, we simply do not accept that current prices represent a fair share out of the returns from the market place. This, along with beef price frustrations, highlights the need for compulsory EU auditing of who gets what from the food chain. ICSA has been making the case for an EU regulator or watchdog to examine the books of processors and retailers and bring transparency into the food chain.”

“ICSA opposes unduly severe weight limits on lamb. There are ample outlets for lambs of 22kg. If all lambs were this weight there might be some argument but the reality is that farmers are getting hammered, particularly in the case of good conformation lambs, where very low weight limits are inappropriate.”



8 JULY 2018

ICSA Animal Health and Welfare chair Hugh Farrell has condemned the practice of destroying livestock on-farm following a TB outbreak. “This primarily concerns the destruction by shooting of calves in farmyards. While older cattle are removed to the factory, the calves that remain are destroyed on-site by a knackery service, a practice which can be extremely distressing for farmers. ICSA has received several complaints about this and we are asking the Department of Agriculture to seriously reconsider their protocols regarding this issue,” he said.

Continuing Mr Farrell said, “Once these animals have been commandeered by the Department the onus should be on the department to remove them from the farm and dispose of them in an appropriate manner. The farmer should be fully compensated for the calf under the on-farm market valuation system and knackery charges should be borne by the Department.”



1 JULY 2019

The ICSA protest outside Kepak Athleague has been called off following discussions with Kepak management. ICSA sheep chairman Sean McNamara who led the delegation said that there had been a robust exchange of views and that further talks were planned for Thursday.

“Both sides agreed that current prices were wholly unsatisfactory from a farmer’s perspective. ICSA is insisting that the continuous severe cuts on sheep price cannot continue and that sheep farmers cannot be expected to lose money. We also had a strong exchange of views on weight limits which at 20.5kg are totally unreasonable at this time of year.”

“The protest is off now pending talks on Thursday.” However, Mr McNamara warned that if prices continue to fall there are no guarantees that there won’t be further protests at various meat plants in the coming weeks.