ICSA: Full AEOS scheme vital for next year

25th September, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmer’s Association has emphasised the need to continue a meaningful agri-environmental scheme into next year, to cater for the thousands of farmers exiting REPS 4 this year.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said, “ICSA has persistently lobbied for a robust agri-environment scheme, a vital support for less profitable cattle and sheep farms. Environmental measures are considered to be of ever-increasing importance at EU level, so I am extremely disappointed that the Minister has not seen fit to keep a support scheme in place next year to facilitate farming to a high environmental standard.”

“The AEOS scheme was not enough to constitute a real support for farms but it was better than nothing. I consider the lack of any agri-environment option for those exiting REPS 4 this year to be an extremely short-sighted move.”

Two candidates to contest ICSA presidential election

23rd September, 2013

Two candidates have been nominated to contest ICSA’s forthcoming presidential election, which will take place on Thursday, 12th of December 2013.

Current president Gabriel Gilmartin and former Leinster vice president Patrick Kent are the nominees for the position. Mr Gilmartin farms sheep and sucklers in the shadow of Ben Bulben at Ballintrillick, Co. Sligo, and was first elected president in 2009. Mr Kent farms near New Ross, Co. Wexford, operating a medium-sized mixed farm of suckler, beef and sheep, with a pedigree Belgian Blue enterprise.

The electorate is the ICSA national executive.

ICSA says good weaning standards must not be allowed to slide

20th September, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has said that good weaning standards adopted under the now-defunct Suckler Welfare Scheme must not be allowed to slide, despite the abolition of financial supports.

ICSA suckler committee chair Dermot Kelleher said, “It seems that a certain amount of farmers are abandoning the principles of good weaning practice recently. I have seen evidence of it at marts with calves making a lot of noise because they haven’t been properly weaned.”

“Furthermore, I reckon those calves that could be guaranteed to be weaned and on meal were worth an additional €100 to €150 in the sales ring.”

Mr Kelleher says farmers must recognise that proper weaning practice is beneficial for the calf, for themselves and everyone in the supply chain, including live exporters, who report far fewer instances of illnesses in calves that have been correctly weaned. “The suckler industry has seen huge improvements as a result of the Suckler Welfare Scheme, and despite its abolition last year I would call on all farmers to make sure they do not abandon the beneficial farm management principles behind that improvement.”

ICSA calls for action on rural suicide on World Suicide Prevention Day

10th September, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has added its voice to those calling for action on rural suicide, on World Suicide Prevention Day.

ICSA Connaught/Ulster vice president and spokesperson on Health and Safety John Flynn, who attended the launch today of Pieta House’s Rural Suicide Intervention Initiative, said, “A recent report by the National Suicide Research Foundation shows that 13.2 per cent of those who took their own lives had worked in the agricultural sector – highlighting the sad reality that farming folk in particular can feel isolated, alone and unable to seek help when they’re feeling distressed.”

“Farming can be a stressful job at the best of times, and farmers have been under an incredible amount of stress recently as a result of crises such as the fodder shortage and subsequent financial pressure. We must come together as a community to address this but we also need action from the State in terms of resources in tackling this tragic and worrying problem.”

ICSA pays tribute to Seán Mac Connell

4th September, 2013

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president Gabriel Gilmartin has paid tribute to the former Irish Times agriculture correspondent, Seán Mac Connell, who passed away early this morning.

Mr Gilmartin said, “During his career as agriculture correspondent, Seán Mac Connell demonstrated a sharp insight into the agri-food sector and was a keen observer of its politics.”

On behalf of ICSA, Mr Gilmartin expressed sympathy to Mr Mac Connell’s family, friends and colleagues.

ICSA: beef farmers will not countenance coupled support for dairy industry

30th August, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association says beef farmers will not countenance coupled support payments for the dairy industry, which has an average per-hectare income double that of the beef finishing industry.

ICSA beef committee chair, Edmond Phelan, said, “Beef farmers will not accept a cut of up to ten per cent on their Single Farm payment to subsidise a support payment for an industry that’s twice as profitable as their own. To suggest that dairy farms should be subsidised by the lower-income farm systems is an absolute nonsense.”

The Teagasc National Farm Survey shows that in 2012, the average income per hectare on a dairy farm was some €939 – double the average per hectare income on beef finishing farms (€419).

“As well as that, beef finishers with an above-average payment will take a much higher cut on average in the CAP redistribution as it stands. That has been accepted. However, they cannot afford to take on further reductions in their Single Farm Payment in the form of cuts to pay for coupled supports,” Mr Phelan added.

“It should also be borne in mind that cutting payments by up to ten per cent to re-introduce coupling is fundamentally flawed – as it simply means beef finishers will turn up to the mart with ten per cent less to spend on weanlings. It’s very straightforward: less money and less competition at the ringside will have a negative impact on weanling prices. The argument in favour of re-introducing coupled payments simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.”

ICSA says Gardaí need better resources to deal with Border area crime

27th August, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association says the Gardaí need better resources to deal with increasing crime, particularly theft, in the counties along the Border.

Responding to a warning issued by police to farmers on both sides of the Border following a spate of costly livestock thefts, ICSA’s Connaught/Ulster vice president John Flynn said, “Anecdotally, there has been a significant increase in crime in the Border region and livestock theft is part of a bigger picture involving theft of diesel and machinery and other high-value items. It appears that the criminals involved are highly organised and have strong local knowledge and it is clear that the Gardaí need far better resources to tackle this.”

ICSA delegation meets with Roscommon DVO officials to highlight continued opposition to closure

26th August, 2013

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is continuing to oppose any moves to close the public office of Roscommon’s District Veterinary Office. An ICSA delegation met with senior local Department of Agriculture officials at the DVO today (Monday 26th August), along with representatives from a number of local marts, live exporters and local vets.

Speaking before the meeting, Ardkeel farmer Charles Clarke, a member of the ICSA national executive, said, “I know that DVOs are being closed to the public around the country in efforts to cut costs but there are several special factors that need to be taken into consideration in the case of the Roscommon office.”

“For one thing, the broadband infrastructure in the county is very poor so in many cases switching to online forms is simply not an option. That’s before you consider that there are a great many older farmers in the area who would not be familiar enough with computerised systems to be able to carry out their business online. For them, being able to go into the public office and get help from an experience member of staff is invaluable. On top of that, the sheep recording system is not yet available online.”

“There is also the distance issue – it seems the Department plans to move the public services to Naas and that would be an enormous distance to travel for Roscommon farmers.”

Mr Clarke also highlighted the fears of local vets that the loss of the local DVO would jeopardise the progress that has been made on issues such as TB eradication in the area.

ICSA: Danske Bank prepared to talk

6th August, 2013

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association national treasurer, Malcolm Thompson, has advised farmers who are clients of Danske Bank not to panic into opening alternative bank accounts especially where the new account will cost them more in terms of interest and legal charges.

“I have been assured that no one should be disadvantaged as a result of the bank’s decision to cease lending and servicing of accounts in the agri sector.”

Mr Thompson has urged farmers to look at all their options, always bearing in mind that where they have Fixed Term Loans which are in good standing, Danske Bank has a contractual obligation to them.

“Whilst every case is different and should be dealt with on its merits by the bank, I believe that, as farmers, we must ensure that we get the best possible deal.”

Mr Thompson advised that farmers who have accounts at Danske Bank should, in the first instance, contact the bank’s agri manager to discuss their options.

ICSA comment on Teagasc mid-year review

30th July, 2013

Commenting on the publication of Teagasc’s mid-year review of agricultural markets and farm incomes, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president Gabriel Gilmartin has said that only the dairy sector can take comfort from strong product prices this year. Mr Gilmartin said, “Tight margins in cattle and sheep mean that these sectors are extremely vulnerable to higher costs and recent squeezes on beef and lamb prices are going to play havoc with cattle and sheep incomes when the final analysis for 2013 is completed.”

Despite a forecast by Teagasc that strong beef prices would offset the high costs associated with the fodder crisis, ICSA beef chairman, Edmond Phelan sounded a note of caution. “It is positive that R3 prices were on average 6 per cent higher in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year; however, that trend is very unlikely to continue for the second half of 2013. This figure is actually masking the fact that as we head into the busiest time of year for beef sales – late summer/autumn – factories are actively pulling the price of beef.”

“The prices for cattle have been falling since early June, from around €4.60/kg to €4.15/kg today. This means that it is far from certain that the higher costs associated with the fodder crisis will be offset to any great degree by the output prices as the year goes on.”

ICSA sheep chairman Paul Brady added that from the perspective of lamb producers, the lower prices compared to the first half of 2012 make little sense. “We know that supplies are tight, as a result of the bad weather and Schmallenberg Virus, among other factors. We also know that exports remain strong. However this situation is not reflected in the prices being paid to producers – it is hard to make sense of that.”

Concluding, Gabriel Gilmartin said, “It’s clear that factories must start paying sustainable prices to primary producers in the cattle and sheep sectors; otherwise the future will be uncertain for these industries.”