ICSA calls for advance on Single Farm Payment to relieve hardship caused by bad weather

2nd July, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association says the recent bad weather means there is now a compelling case for the approval of an advance payment under the Single Farm Payment.  

ICSA president, Gabriel Gilmartin says conditions are very poor in most parts of the country and this is affecting trade and cashflow on farms.  “We have just witnessed the wettest June in Ireland since records began.  Farmers are finding it very difficult to get on with their work under these conditions.  For example, land is waterlogged and silage-cutting has been an ordeal on many farms – in some cases the weather has been too wet to even cut it yet, while some farmers have cut silage but haven’t been able to pick it up, which is a disastrous situation.  The bad weather is going to have huge cash flow implications in terms of higher meal bills, poor thrive and now, the risk that some winter feed won’t be saved at all.”

“In recent years the advance payment on October 16th has become a regular feature but it is important to remember that it is not guaranteed – the government has to present a strong case as to why funding should be released early to farmers.  The hardship being caused by the poor weather at the moment cannot be ignored and I would urge the Minister to put forward the strongest possible case.”

Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, has already announced that he has asked the EU Commission to allow the advance payment this year, stating that he feels there are “real financial benefits for the rural economy” in bringing forward some of the payment by six weeks from the usual date of December 1st.    

Mr. Gilmartin concluded, “it is vitally important that every effort is made to ensure that direct payments end up in the farmer’s account as soon as possible.”

ICSA calls for “targeted and decent increase” in CAP payments to deserving cases under CAP reform

22nd June 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president Gabriel Gilmartin is calling for a “targeted and decent increase” in EU payments to deserving and active farmers, including young farmers, who for one reason or another, do badly under the current historic system.  This is in contrast to the flat rate per-hectare payment being proposed by the EU Agriculture Commissioner.
Mr Gilmartin was speaking at an open forum on the CAP reform negotiations, organised by ICSA, at the Clanard Court in Athy last night (Thursday), which was chaired by ICSA CAP Committee Chairman Billy Gray and featured guest speakers Liam Aylward MEP and Martin Heydon TD.  The meeting came just days after the European Parliament’s agriculture committee debated the ‘Santos Report’ which contains a number of amendments to EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos’ original CAP reform proposals – a debate which was observed in Brussels by a delegation from the ICSA.  
One of the main concerns during these talks, according to Mr. Gilmartin, is the fact that the overall EU budget has yet to be decided – and this means that we don’t know how much will be allocated to the CAP post-2013.  Ideally, the CAP reforms would be decided upon during the Irish presidency of the EU in the first half of next year – however this is looking increasingly unlikely.  Mr. Gilmartin called on the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture to put a “huge effort” into getting agreement on the overall EU budget as quickly as possible, so that progress can be made on the CAP budget.  
Mr. Gilmartin also outlined to those at the meeting that one of the other big concerns is the desire of Commissioner Ciolos to bring in a flat rate payment per hectare – which ICSA says, “might work in theory but not in practice”.  Mr Gilmartin said that ICSA is working to minimise cuts to the Single Payment of active farmers.  He added that increases should be targeted carefully at deserving cases rather than a flat across the board increase for those with no or low payments.  

“The problem is that an across the board flat rate is inefficient because it spreads payments too thinly.  It involves redistributing money to sofa farmers and speculators as well as landowners with vast tracks of land. Meanwhile, active farmers lose out.”   
ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch gave a comprehensive presentation of the current state of play in the CAP negotiations.  Mr. Punch presented case studies showing the financial effect that will be felt by Irish farmers should either the Ciolos or Santos proposals be carried – and also presented the alternative strategy being pushed by the ICSA, which would see less cuts to Single Farm Payments in Ireland, while making the payments more targeted and efficient.  
Ireland East MEP Liam Aylward – who is a member of the European Parliament agriculture committee – outlined that the European Parliament now has co-decision on the CAP reform proposals, which means that your local MEP has a significant influence on the outcome of the negotiations.
Fine Gael TD for Kildare South, Martin Heydon described Thursday night’s meeting as a “really important interaction” with the local farming community and commended the ICSA for organising the event.  
The ICSA’s National Executive will meet next week to formalise the proposals being put forward by the organisation on the CAP reforms and are calling for opinions and suggestions from all members in the meantime so that the best possible deal for Irish farmers can be hammered out at European level.

ICSA in Brussels as European Parliament debates Santos report

18th June, 2012

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin says that the Santos report on the CAP reform proposals identifies the key problem – but fails to recognise the severity of it.  As a consequence, its proposal to limit the losses by 30% for farmers whose current entitlements are above the flat rate average of €270 does not go far enough.  

“We need to ensure that at the very most, farmers would be no more than 10% worse off if the Ciolos proposals are to be implemented.  We have continuously stated that a flat rate payment cannot be implemented in the 2014-2019 period.  We accept that some changes are inevitable and we need to look at giving more to deserving, active farmers with the lowest payments.  However, we must ensure that we do not devastate the productive farmers who established payments in 2000-2002 and who continue to contribute to the export-oriented agri-food sector.”  

Mr Gilmartin is in Brussels tomorrow morning (Tuesday 19th June) to observe the EU parliament agriculture committee debate on the Santos report.  He said that ICSA will be carefully monitoring the reaction to the amendments proposed by Santos.  “The EU parliament now has a co-decision role on CAP reform and therefore, the Santos report which will play a central role in the EU parliament position on the Ciolos proposals is very important.  It is still possible that Ireland can influence this and ICSA is determined that we have to fight hard to ensure our current decoupled system is defended to the greatest extent possible.”

EU Parliament changes to Ciolos plan to be outlined at Athy CAP reform meeting

15th June, 2012

ICSA is hosting an open forum on the CAP Reform Proposals this coming Thursday night in the Clanard Court Hotel in Athy, with guest appearances from Liam Aylward MEP – who is a member of the influential European Parliament Agriculture Committee – and Martin Heydon TD, chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party agriculture committee.  There will be also presentations from a senior Department of Agriculture official, and from ICSA President Gabriel Gilmartin and General Secretary Eddie Punch.  

Local Kildare farmer, Billy Gray, who is the chairman of the ICSA CAP Committee, said the meeting is ideally timed, just after the publication of the important EU Parliament reports, which set out proposed amendments to Commissioner Ciolos’ draft on CAP reform. 

“Thursday evening is the first opportunity for Irish farmers to get a run down on the debate being held this week in Brussels on the vital Santos report, which is suggesting significant amendments to the original Ciolos document.”  

“I would urge all farmers to attend as this meeting will give a vital chance to farmers to have an input into the response from the EU parliament agricultural committee.  It is not too late to influence the debate at EU level but the window of opportunity will be closing in the next month.”  

ICSA President Gabriel Gilmartin said, “Ireland has a real opportunity to influence the outcome of the CAP reform talks.  We need to make sure that our representatives in Europe know what Irish farming needs from CAP post-2013 and that’s what this meeting is all about.”

The meeting takes place on Thursday 21st of June, at the Clanard Court Hotel, Athy, Co. Kildare, beginning at 8.30pm. 


Have your say on CAP Reform proposals

12th June, 2012

An important meeting to discuss the CAP Reform proposals will take place in Athy next week, hosted by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association.

The meeting will be addressed by a number of high-profile speakers including Liam Aylward, MEP for Ireland East; Martin Heydon, TD; a senior official from the Department of Agriculture; ICSA President, Gabriel Gilmartin and ICSA General Secretary, Eddie Punch.  It will be chaired by ICSA National CAP Committee Chairman, Billy Gray.  

A comprehensive and open discussion on all the issues surrounding the CAP negotiations will take place on the night and everyone is welcome.  The latest updates from Brussels will be presented and those in attendance will have the opportunity to have their say on the topic. 

The meeting takes place on Thursday 21st of June, at the Clanard Court Hotel, Athy, Co. Kildare, beginning at 8.30pm sharp. 

ICSA condemns violence against vulnerable rural dwellers

8th June, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association strongly condemns the violence being perpetrated against elderly people in rural areas.

It comes after a recent spate of distressing incidents, in which the homes of elderly people have been broken into and robbed, and the residents assaulted.

ICSA President, Gabriel Gilmartin, said, “These are appalling acts of violence towards some of society’s most vulnerable people. Elderly people living in rural areas are seen as something of an easy target for criminals and we must do all that we can to prevent these attacks and help the Gardaí investigate them when they do happen.”

“I would call on people living in isolated areas to be vigilant and keep an eye out for anything suspicious in their area and report it to the Gardaí if something doesn’t seem right.”

ICSA calls for compulsory microchipping of all dogs

8th June, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is calling for a change to the existing dog-control legislation, so that it would be compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped. 

It would mirror the law that came into force in Northern Ireland in April of this year, under the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which says that all dogs north of the border must have a microchip.

ICSA Sheep chairman, Paul Brady said: “When the proposals first came to my attention, my initial thought was of marauding dogs attacking sheep. However, the threat from dogs is much deeper and sinister than just sheep worrying, as distressing as that is for sheep farmers. Microchipping helps local councils and wardens to deal with dangerous, out of control and possibly diseased dogs which pose a danger to everyone. In the last few months alone several children have been attacked by the likes of Husky dogs in Limerick, Clare, Donegal and elsewhere. We need a stronger regime of control which promotes more responsible dog ownership for everyone’s benefit.” 

ICSA Leinster Vice President, Paddy Kent said, “microchipping is already used by all responsible dog owners for traceability – but it is also useful for the control of diseases.  These include Toxocariasis and Neospora.  Toxocariasis can cause a range of nasty symptoms in humans including blindness and epilepsy.  Neospora, which is highly transmissible, causes abortion and early embryo loss in cattle and can be transmitted by unvaccinated dogs.  This is stress and cost that could be avoided by making microchipping compulsory for every dog in Ireland.”

Mr Kent added, “this system would also need to be backed up with a well-organised, central database monitored by a State authority.”

Mr. Brady continued: “It is unacceptable in my view that dogs – which in more ways than one can be highly dangerous animals – are not subject to the same controls as cattle and horses.  10,000 dogs were put down in pounds across the country last year because their owners could not be traced. This number would be significantly reduced if each dog was microchipped and their owner’s details recorded in the database.  We in ICSA are confident that those who truly value their pets and working dogs will view this ICSA campaign as a progressive initiative rather than as an imposition.”

New thinking needed on agricultural emissions policies

7th June, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association agrees with the finding of the Economic and Social Research Institute that a new deal is needed on agricultural emissions targets for Europe.  

The ESRI has published its Environment Review 2012, which finds that if we are to meet the targets for increased agricultural production under Food Harvest 2020, Ireland will struggle to meet its emissions obligations.  

ICSA President Gabriel Gilmartin said, “on the one hand, Food Harvest 2020 says we must strive to dramatically increase agricultural production – but on the other, we are expected to reduce the emissions from farming activities.  The two targets are plainly incompatible.”

As a whole, Ireland is supposed to reduce its emissions by 20% by the year 2020.  ICSA is firmly of the opinion that this is much too onerous due to the fact that agriculture as an industry is proportionately far more significant here than in other EU countries.  

Mr. Gilmartin said, “I am very much in agreement with the ESRI’s suggestion that a new mechanism for managing agricultural emissions in Ireland is needed.  A blunt focus on emissions reduction in Ireland could lead to more production being moved overseas, and Ireland will lose the potential to expand output and create jobs.  If this was to happen, the environmental benefits may be less than if production was kept within the EU, where cross-compliance and other measures ensure higher environmental standards.  New thinking is needed on the climate and emissions policies imposed on the sector.”

Sheep prices recovering, but weight limits still need to be lifted

6th June, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association Sheep Committee Chairman, Paul Brady, says factories have finally got the message on sheep prices.  

It’s being reported that farmers can get up to 30c/kg more today than what was being offered last week.  

Mr. Brady said, “ICSA has been voicing serious concern about sheep prices recently.  The situation simply could not continue and I am relieved to hear that the factories have listened and have started paying more realistic prices for stock.”

“However, farmers are still only getting paid up to 20kg.  This is far too severe of a weight limit and is seriously undermining the prices being paid.  We have already warned that plans for the expansion of sheep production under Food Harvest 2020 are questionable, given the recent trends in the market.  The factories must play their part in supporting sheep farming in Ireland if it’s to be sustained into the future,” Mr. Brady concluded.

Sheep prices mean Food Harvest 2020 is over – ICSA

1st June, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association says the targets set out under the Food Harvest 2020 Report for the sheep sector in Ireland are all but dead.

ICSA President, Gabriel Gilmartin, says, “the Report wants us to expand the output value of the sheep sector by 20% in the coming years.  However, the recent downward spiral in prices for sheep and lambs makes all talk of increased production seem ridiculous at this point.”  

“Speaking at our AGM late last year, the Minister for Agriculture said he was confident that the targets could be achieved, given favourable market conditions.  Well, that is certainly not the case anymore.  Farmers are getting horrendously low prices for their stock as a result of a fairly minor increase in numbers.  I would go as far as to say that the drive for expansion proposed by Food Harvest 2020 is all over for sheep farmers.”

ICSA Sheep Committee Chairman, Paul Brady, agrees.  “We have seen a relatively small increase in sheep throughput this year and it’s having a disastrous effect on prices.  At the moment they are hovering around the €4.85 mark for spring lambs.  That’s 16% lower than the price this time last year.”  

“However, the total number of sheep coming through is only up by 5.8% on a year to date basis compared to last year. ”  

“The 5.8% increase equates to somewhere between 38,000 and 40,000 extra sheep.  If the market can’t handle this, you have to ask – what’s the point in talking about further expansion under Food Harvest 2020?  It’s also worth noting that UK throughput is actually down 3.4% on last year.”

Mr. Brady added, “on top of this, factories are only paying up to 20 kilos, which in effect means farmers are actually getting far less.  At the current prices, a farmer selling a 22kg lamb is in fact only getting around €4.40/kg.  This is far too severe of a cut-off point and is making the whole business of selling sheep unsustainable in the extreme.  Especially when you take into consideration the fact that the weaker euro – currently worth 80 pence sterling – makes us more competitive than we have been for some time compared with Northern Irish and British lamb.”

ICSA President, Gabriel Gilmartin concluded, “While the targets under Food Harvest are laudable, the trends in the sheep market in recent weeks really calls into question whether increased production is desirable from a farmer’s viewpoint.”