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ICSA president Edmond Phelan has called on Minister McConalogue to insist on monthly meetings of the Beef Taskforce with a view to progressing the appointment of a regulator and the delivery of all the other commitments made under the beef agreement. This was one of the key demands set out by ICSA at today’s meeting with the Minister.

Other ICSA demands included:

  • The Minister to chair the TB Forum with a view to getting TB policy back on track following the debacle surrounding the issuing of TB Herd History Risk Statements
  • A Sheep Taskforce
  • PGI status exclusively for sucklers
  • A commitment to a REPS scheme with treble the funding of the current GLAS
  • CAP payments targeted at low income sectors such as cattle, sheep and tillage
  • Contingency plans to access the EU €5bn fund in the case of a bad Brexit outcome

“ICSA stressed the need for the Minister to inject a sense of urgency into the Beef Taskforce. We made it clear that strong and robust regulation in the sector is long overdue. The Taskforce needs to bring about total transparency in the beef food chain and must ensure that neither processor nor retailer can abuse their dominant positions. A regulator with real powers to investigate what goes on along the entire food chain must be made a reality.”

“ICSA urged Minister McConalogue to immediately take ownership of the TB Forum as the current breakdown in policy between farmers and officials has the potential to derail the entire TB Eradication Programme.”

“We have called on the Minister to establish a Sheep Taskforce to ensure that sector gets the focus it deserves. There are inadequate supports through the Sheep Welfare Scheme, there is a lack of transparency around sheep imports, and there has been a complete collapse of wool prices.”

“Further, ICSA urged the Minister to reconsider the Department’s support for EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for grass fed beef. We believe the current position of looking for PGI status for all beef is the wrong approach as it would do nothing to ensure the viability of the struggling suckler sector. ICSA is adamant suckler beef must be developed and promoted as a unique high value product and as such should be prioritised in any application for PGI status.”

ICSA sought a commitment from Minister McConalogue to push for additional exchequer funds for the farming sector. “ICSA has calculated that an annual budget of €750m, or three times the current GLAS budget, is required to roll out an effective new REPS type scheme. It is clear exchequer funding, on top of CAP, will be required if we are genuine about playing our part in the EU Biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies, getting real results, and rewarding farmers for their role. ICSA believes that the next CAP must deliver maximum payments to farmers in the cattle, sheep and tillage sectors who are most dependent on it.”

Concluding Mr Phelan said, “Brexit and CAP reform remain critical in determining the future for Irish farming. However, it is essential that economic sustainability is delivered to Irish drystock farmers and ICSA looks forward to working closely with Minister McConalogue.”



ICSA Meet Minister McConalogue




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 ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chair Hugh Farrell has advised farmers that the TB herd history letters should be ignored.  “Many farmers are in a state of panic and confusion particularly in relation to advice to cull cattle, even though those animals have never tested positive for TB.  This is causing a lot of confusion and worry, and it is particularly regrettable that this was done in the absence of a functioning Minister.”

“It is also very unacceptable because this has been done in complete contravention of the spirit of the TB forum which has been unilaterally sidelined by the Department.”

“Farmers need to be aware that there is no requirement on them whatsoever to cull any animals listed on this letter and they are free to completely ignore any implications.  ICSA will be demanding that the new Minister rolls back on this and does not attempt to impose further restrictions.  Moreover, the Minister must immediately insist that the TB forum is reconvened.”

“As a farming organisation ICSA is outraged that farmers are being put in such an impossible position. There can be no doubt that all of this information floating around has the potential to seriously distort the markets. Herdowners are reeling that their stock has potentially been devalued and all of this has been done in the absence of any revised compensation measures to mitigate the impact.”

“Minister McConalogue will have to take his department officials to task on this fiasco. The TB Forum was established for a reason, to progress the TB Eradication Programme in consultation and agreement with the stakeholders. This has not happened and as a result farmers have been left unfairly and negatively impacted.”



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 ICSA president Edmond Phelan has welcomed the appointment of Charlie McConalogue as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. “The focus must be on delivering economic sustainability to cattle and sheep farmers and ICSA looks forward to working closely with Minister McConalogue.”

“Agriculture has suffered over recent months without ministerial leadership. Minister McConalogue now needs to get to grips with the pressing issues and make up for lost time.   The key issues will be Brexit and the CAP reform, both of which will be critical in determining the future for Irish farming.”

The Beef Taskforce in particular needs to deliver for farmers. It has been in existence for a year now and farmers are getting frustrated with the current lack of urgency.”

“Minister McConalogue needs to inject a sense of urgency into the Beef Taskforce.  It has been side-lined for too long and farmers want results now.  It must bring about total transparency in the food chain and ensure that neither processor nor retailer can abuse their dominant positions.  To this end, ICSA wants to ensure that our demand for a regulator for the beef food chain is delivered.”

“ICSA is also insisting the TB Forum is reconvened as a matter of urgency. The promised TB Forum did not happen at the end of August due to the absence of a minister, yet the Department is moving ahead with changes to the TB Eradication Programme that were not previously agreed to, and which are causing much disquiet amongst farmers. Most notably, the issuing of TB Herd History Risk Statements to farmers is a matter that requires the Minister’s urgent attention.”

“ICSA is adamant that suckler beef must be developed and promoted as a special high value product.

As such, we are opposed to the Bord Bia application for EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for Grass Fed Beef. Rather, ICSA believes a suckler based application is more appropriate and indeed is vital for the survival of the suckler sector. We will be urging Minister McConalogue to reconsider the national position on the current PGI application.”

“The roll out of a new REPS type scheme is vital if we are serious about playing our part in the EU Biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies. ICSA is calling for a trebling of the current GLAS budget to facilitate the scheme, given the numbers of farmers it would hope to attract. An annual budget of €750 million is the minimum required.”


“ICSA also wants to see the establishment of a dedicated Sheep Taskforce with a remit to tackle all the ongoing issues in the sector. Sheep farmers have not received any Brexit or Covid related compensation packages, there are difficulties around the numbers of lambs being continuously imported into the country, and we need a coherent strategy to increase the value of wool.  There is also an urgent need to develop a new and improved Sheep Welfare Scheme that could deliver substantially more financial benefit to sheep farmers.”





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17 AUGUST 2020

ICSA suckler chair Ger O’Brien has described the travel restriction included in Bord Bia’s application for Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) for Irish Grass Fed Beef as anti-competitive. “The imposition of a two-hour limit on travel time to slaughter will leave many farmers without any choice as to where to sell their cattle. This is a real blow to their ability to shop around for the best return and factories will no doubt be able to exploit this,” he said.

“The pursuit of a PGI for the whole country should mean that you can bring your cattle to any factory within that country. Our livestock haulage systems are well regulated and there is no evidence that a three-hour journey is more detrimental than a two-hour journey. The only losers will be the farmers who are restricted from getting the best price possible.”

“ICSA is also opposed to the exclusion of young bulls. We believe it makes absolutely no sense to bring in a scheme that would militate against quality continental suckler bull beef.”

“ICSA has consistently argued that we should have looked for a PGI designation for suckler only beef and the inclusion of most dairy stock will undermine any chance of a premium price for suckler farmers.”



12 MARCH 2020

“ICSA fully supports the Government’s decisions designed to slow down spread of the virus and we will fully implement decisions regarding public meetings,” according to ICSA president Edmond Phelan.

“ICSA sees the health of all citizens as being the primary concern and we are obviously worried about the potential for coronavirus infections among our members. The farming population has an older demographic and we are acutely aware that the virus poses a bigger threat to older people and people with underlying health conditions.”

Mr Phelan added that the coronavirus impacts will be very severe on all sectors and farming is no different. Many farmers are extremely concerned about what the impact will be on trade. “Many farmers are facing into acute cash flow difficulties and wonder about the impacts on being able to sell stock and the potential impact on processing of beef and lamb at the normal levels. Farmers in the cattle and sheep sectors in particular are very vulnerable to any further economic disruption. We are also very concerned about the impact on mental health that could arise from any cash flow difficulties.”

Mr Phelan urged consumers to continue supporting Irish produce such as beef and lamb. “Farmers will continue to work as hard as they can to produce the highest standard traceable products and there will be adequate quantities. In this national emergency we all need to support each other.”

ICSA is calling for an immediate and full consultative process between the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the main farm organisations.



Ireland has committed to producing at least 16% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 and the next Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) is said to be fully aligned with the need to prioritise climate action. Farmers looking to benefit from green initiatives are being urged to attend Energy and Rural Business Show, taking place at Hub at Cillin Hill, Kilkenny on 23 and 24 October 2019.


This year the show is boosting its offering by including both Energy Now Expo and Rural Business Expo, so farmers can hear from experts on diversification and the growing opportunities and grants available for on-farm renewables.


Representing the Department for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) at Energy and Rural and Business Show Ireland is Michael O’Donoghue, who will deliver a talk on the solar PV grants available under the TAMS on-farm investment scheme and energy efficiency.


Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, T.D. stated that “energy efficiency and deployment of renewable technologies at farm level are important steps that farmers can make as a positive contribution to decarbonising our economy and society. And at the same time can save money while meeting their own and local energy needs. My Department is supporting this through grant aid for efficient technologies such as air source heat pumps and solar PV.”


Headline speakers and topics at the show include:


  • Ray Langton, programme manager, Renewable Heat Scheme, SEAI
    • The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH)
  • Barry Caslin, energy & rural development specialist, Teagasc
    • An overview of the renewable energy opportunities available to agriculture
  • Jason Hannon, renewable gas business development, Gas Network Ireland
    • A look at the future of the biomethane market
  • Marie Donnelly, chair, Renewable Energy Ireland
    • The Climate Action Plan – how can these targets be achieved?
  • Declan Rice, CEO, Kilkenny Leader Partnership
    • How LEADER grant funding can help you develop your business
  • Keith Harlin, geothermal geologist, Geothermal Association of Ireland
    • Is ground source heating for you?
  • Alison Corbally, director of breeding and programmes, Horse Sport Ireland
    • How to breed performance horses
  • Pat McCormack, president, ICMSA
    • Carbon Tax – what you need to know
  • David Walsh-Kemmis, Ballykilcavan Brewing Company
    • How to create a commercial brewery
  • Joseph Spollen, biomass supply manager, Bord Na Mona
    • Supplying biomass fuel – the customer perspective


The Big Debate

For the first time, the show is launching ‘The Big Debate’ on the continued growth of the renewable energy and low carbon sectors in Ireland, which will see industry experts discuss key topics and questions submitted by farmers on the run up to the event. Agribusiness specialist from the Irish Farming Journal, Lorcan Allen, will moderate the debate, and confirmed speakers on the panel include Cllr Malcolm Noonan, spokesperson for Regional Development & Rural Affairs from the Green Party, Tom Short, renewables project team chairman, IFA, Paddy Phelan, 3CEA manager, and PJ McCarthy, RGFI chairman.


To submit your burning question for The Big Debate, visit: http://www.energyandruralbusiness.co.uk/conference-ireland/the-big-debate


Energy Now Expo

If you’re looking to find out more about the opportunities available to farmers in renewable energy, Energy Now Expo showcases the latest technologies and services from expert speakers and exhibitors from across the renewables sector, including AD and biogas, biomass, energy crops, energy management, heat pumps, hydro, solar and energy storage.


Rural Business Expo

Farmers and landowners looking to future proof their businesses through diversification, whether it be making better use of current assets or launching a completely new business venture, Rural Business Expo features ‘How-To Workshops’ from speakers who have diversified their businesses and can offer guidance, as well as exhibitors with refreshingly practical and robust diversification propositions.

The event is run in association with the Irish Farming Association (IFA) and Teagasc and is supported by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA), The Alpaca Association of Ireland, Macra Na Feirme, the Renewable Gas Forum of Ireland (RGFI), the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), Three Counties Energy Agency (3CEA), The Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) and The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA).

Energy and Rural Business Show is free to attend, and places can be booked today: http://www.energyandruralbusiness.co.uk/welcome-ireland




14 MAY 2018

The ICSA sheep committee held a protest today (Monday) at the Department of Agriculture headquarters to reflect growing anger among sheep farmers about EID tagging, as well as the clean sheep policy. ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks said that the Minister’s unilateral decision to impose mandatory electronic tags (EID) on lambs destined for factories was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“There is neither rhyme nor reason to the Minister’s decision to impose mandatory electronic tagging on lambs going direct to the factory. The traceability requirement is that they are tagged before they leave the farm. A few hours later, the lamb is processed with the ear disposed of and the costly electronic ear tag is in the skip.

The Minister talks about new markets but the reality is that the vast majority of our lamb will continue to go to EU markets which are under-supplied. There is no need to add cost to our lamb for existing markets and the reality is that in the biggest EU market – France – lamb imports will always be discounted compared to native French lamb regardless of what we put in lambs’ ears.

The main marketing logic was allegedly for the US market but this won’t be the first Minister to talk up the potential of the US market in vain. If we can’t make inroads there with grass fed beef, we are highly unlikely to fare much better with sheepmeat.

This decision will add some €2.5 million cost to sheep farmers, based on additional costs of €1/lamb and a throughput of some 2.5 million lambs/ annum. However, the average profit per lamb is about €14, based on an annual average price of €100 or €4.80/kg over the past five years.  It costs the average Teagasc profit monitor farmer €86 to produce a lamb. So when the Minister adds €1 cost to a lamb producing €14 profit, he is imposing a 7% income cut. This compares badly with EU proposals to cut CAP direct payments by 4%.”

Mr Brooks added that the proposal for a one-off payment of €50 was really rubbing farmers up the wrong way. “Does the Minister really believe we can be bought off for €50? You’d give it to a youngster for their holy communion but it doesn’t make up for a permanently imposed cost leading to a 7% cut in sheep farmers’ profits. That’s on lowland farms. The situation is even worse for hill farmers who are being asked to fund an extra euro when selling store lambs from the hills that might only be worth €20-30.”

The protest is also on the back of farmer anger over the clean sheep policy which has been imposed without any concern for the problems it has caused in factories this year. “We need an urgent review of the implementation of the policy as we cannot allow a repeat of the chaos we have seen on occasion in factories with whole consignments of lambs being sent off for shearing. It is incumbent on the Department to pull all stakeholders together to develop a consensus on what will work in practice. It is especially important  that Teagasc develop and trial  systems of production that will ensure farmers can comply with requirements. Farmers need certainty and there is a lot of anger about the lottery of sending lambs in to a factory not knowing what will happen to them.”

ICSA wants an urgent meeting with the Minister and the association is insisting that it’s back to the drawing board for compulsory EID for lambs and for the clean sheep policy.



2 MAY 2018

An information night on the subject of ‘Rural Isolation, Mental Health & & Learning to Cope’ will take place at the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen this Thursday, 3 May at 8pm. The meeting has been organised by an Garda Siochana and will feature ICSA Rural Development chairman Seamus Sherlock as a guest speaker. Previous meetings on the subject of rural isolation and mental health in farming have attracted large crowds.

Speaking ahead of the event Mr Sherlock said, “We are on a rescue mission for a lot of farmers who are at their wits end. Hopefully we are coming to the end of the most difficult winter many of us can remember. It’s time now to draw on the positives and look after each other and look to the future together.”

“It is important for ICSA to be present to support this drive to highlight the concerns about mental health in farming. The closure of local shops, post offices, bank branches and Garda stations all have an impact and add to the sense of isolation felt in rural communities. We need to listen to farmers concerns and address these issues to keep our rural communities strong.”

Admission is free and refreshments will be served.



9 JANUARY 2018

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has said he is concerned that live exports of sheep fell by over a quarter in 2017, compared to the previous year. Bord Bia figures that show live exports of sheep were down 26% to 35,349 in 2017 compared to 48,036 in 2016. “There is clearly a need to redouble our efforts to ensure this decline is reversed.”

“Farmers need to have the option to ship live as an alternative to dealing only with processors who very often squeeze them to the limit. The live trade is crucial to keep the dead trade honest. To this end, ICSA has been calling for the initiation of a strategic plan to drive the live export trade. Planning would involve the Department of Agriculture, Teagasc, Bord Bia, live exporters and producers all working together in order to develop a coordinated approach to adequately exploit this lucrative market.”

The importance of religious festivals on the sheep trade has also been highlighted by Bord Bia with 81% of Irish live exports in 2017 occurring in the month ahead of Eid al-Adha. Mr Brooks said, “The significance of this cannot be underestimated. Over the next few years the shifting dates of these festivals demonstrates the amount of forward planning required as each year will have different lambing requirements. To maximise the true potential of this market, the planning needs to start now.”

ICSA believes the current restrictions around the holding standstill period for sheep prior to export continues to frustrate the trade. According to Mr Brooks, “These restrictions hamper the practicalities of getting exports moving and need innovative solutions. The approach with cattle has been more flexible but the need to export sheep is every bit as urgent.”



15 November 2017

ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch today met with Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten at the COP 23 Climate Change conference in Bonn.  The ICSA man delivered a message that farming in Ireland and other EU countries should not be framed in negativity about climate change.  “ICSA strongly believes that food production should be promoted in areas where it is done efficiently.  Equally, farming must be financially sustainable. Farmers can contribute positively to climate change mitigation through sequestration and through renewable energy.”


“Therefore, we must have policies at EU and national level that deliver greater use of renewable energy produced by European farmers in a sustainable way.  We need to stand over sustainable beef and dairy production in Ireland and reject the absurd notion that reducing livestock on Irish farms does anything to help the climate when all we are doing is relocating production to other parts of the globe.”


“If we want farmers to contribute to more sustainable food and energy systems, the first and most important requirement is to ensure that farmers are financially sustainable.  Farms which are viable can re-invest to make their farms even more efficient.   Policies which support EU farmers can achieve this; policies which further undermine the viability of farms are a road to nowhere.”