11 MARCH 2021


ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara has welcomed news that the Wool Feasibility Study announced by Minister Hackett as part of Budget 2021 is set to commence. “ICSA has been leading the drive to reverse the fortunes of wool over the last number of years and we are pleased to see this €100,000 initiative come to life. The downfall in price, particularly in 2020, was not only catastrophic for sheep farmers but it also resulted in so much of this valuable natural resource going to waste. This is something that must never be repeated,” he said.

“In response to wool prices going as low at 10c/kg and with farmers left with no option except to dump wool ICSA established the Irish Wool Steering Group in early 2020, bringing together stakeholders from across the wool spectrum to find solutions and chart a way forward.”

ICSA Organics chair Fergal Byrne added, “Thankfully, there are people right around the country who understand the value in what others wrongly class as a waste product. We have identified a wealth of uses for wool which span across a whole range of sectors and the priority now must be capturing that potential and delivering a viable return for sheep farmers.”

“Our work so far has exposed how our domestic supplies of wool are vastly underused. However, it is clear there is massive scope to revitalise the entire wool industry here, and we look forward to working with Minister Hackett and other stakeholders to make sure that happens.”

Anyone wishing to find out more about the Wool Feasibility Study are advised to visit gov.ie – Wool Feasibility Study (www.gov.ie). All comments and submissions should be submitted via email to woolfeasibilitystudy@agriculture.gov.ie and must be submitted to the Department by 5.30 pm on Friday 2 April 2021.



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3 MARCH 2021 

ICSA Animal Health and Welfare chair Hugh Farrell has again called for adequate compensation for BVD calves from the suckler herd and has urged Animal Health Ireland (AHI) to write to all breeding herd owners to outline updated BVD protocols for 2021. “AHI have moved ahead with removing confirmatory second tests when determining the presence of BVD. This means the term PI or persistently infected is now obsolete, and all animals with one inconclusive test are for removal. Moreover, this has been done without proper communication to farmers, and without any adjustment to the current compensation levels which is completely unacceptable,” he said.

Mr Farrell said ICSA has been arguing that increased compensation for calves from beef herds is required to mitigate this move. “There has been a blanket refusal to revisit levels of compensation within the BVD programme, despite additional hardship being placed on farmers. Compensation of €220 for a suckler bred calf is nowhere near the actual market value – which currently exceeds €600. Given the small number of calves involved it is incomprehensible that fair and adequate compensation for those affected is not a priority.”

“Not only that, in the event of a positive test mandatory blood testing of all females in the herd aged one year and over has been initiated, with no additional compensation provisions made for any further animals that are identified as problematic. Farmers will be instructed to remove these animals but have been given no guidance around where they should go, or how they will be compensated. These farmers will also be required to enter into a vaccination programme.”

Mr Farrell said farmers are utterly fed up with mandatory testing, and the confusion caused by the introduction of new protocols without proper information only adds to the frustration. “AHI have an obligation to address these legitimate concerns if they are serious about reaching negative herd status and bringing an end to compulsory tissue tag testing after 2022,” he said.



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12 FEBRUARY 2021 

ICSA sheep chairman Sean McNamara has urged all sheep farmers to ensure they submit their annual sheep census in advance of Monday’s final deadline. “The online option for competing the census will remain open until 11.59pm on Monday 15 February. However, I would encourage all farmers to get on to this task as soon as possible to guard against any potential last-minute glitches.”

Mr McNamara reminded farmers that completing this census is a requirement under the Sheep Welfare Scheme. “Any sheep farmer who fails to return their census on time risks losing their payments under the scheme. This is something that we need to avoid at all cost, particularly given the fact that sheep farmers have yet to be included in any Brexit or Covid related compensation packages, something which ICSA has been lobbying hard to rectify.”

“No sheep farmer can afford to lose out on this important payment. Complete your census now by logging on to the agfood.ie portal.”



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17 DECEMBER 2020

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has demanded that there should be an investigation into why factory prices are all equally low even though some factories are able to pay much more for cattle at marts. Mr Graham was addressing today’s (Thursday 17th) Beef Taskforce meeting.

“Some factories have markets which justify higher returns and this is evidenced by the prices paid at marts by factory agents. Yet prices quoted by factories for direct sales are all uniformly similar. This strongly suggests that there is no free competition in terms of factory prices.”

Mr Graham insisted that this was a matter for the Beef Taskforce to bring to the attention of the CCPC (Competition and Consumer Protection Commissioner). He repeatedly asked the meat industry representatives for a response but they refused.

“It is abundantly clear that some factories are in a position to pay 30-40c/kg more based on current demand for beef. We have seen UK price rocket ahead of Irish price this year and the evidence is that some factories are actively paying much more at mart rings than the quoted prices.”











14 DECEMBER 2020

ICSA is to meet the Department of Agriculture to seek a review of the 5% stocking rate reduction requirement under the BEAM scheme.

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has said that it is increasingly obvious that the 5% reduction requirement for the BEAM scheme is a bureaucratic nightmare for farmers and advisors. “I am concerned that a large majority of farmers will not achieve the unworkable requirement and this will lead to the appalling vista of the bulk of the money allocated being recouped.”

“The BEAM scheme was designed to compensate farmers for serious losses incurred through no fault of their own because of Brexit disruption to markets. ICSA is calling for a complete review of this requirement.  We believe the 5% should be shelved because it has not been thought through and it is unworkable.”

“Although the Department has put some information up on the Agfood website, there are widespread reports of farmer and advisor confusion on how to ensure that farmers qualify.  A scheme that gives rise to such confusion is not satisfactory.”

“It is proving very difficult for farmers to implement this requirement particularly because of the immense disruption caused by Covid and Brexit uncertainty.  I am aware of farmers who do not want to push cattle to finish them in January or February because of uncertainty around markets in early 2021 arising from Brexit unknowns.  So it is not fair to retain this rule in a year where such uncertainty has prevailed and where marts have been closed or restricted in ways that were not foreseen when this scheme was drawn up.”

ICSA wants the 5% rule reviewed to avoid many farmers facing a clawback of badly needed funds.  ICSA is also suggesting that Teagasc undertake a quick survey of its clients to determine what proportion are unable to determine where they stand and what proportion of applicants believe they are facing a clawback.












14 DECEMBER 2020

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has urged the Taoiseach to push for compromise on both sides to get a Brexit deal over the line.  “There is too much at stake to allow statecraft to fail.  Although there are a lot of misgivings about the good faith of the British government wanting to do a trade deal, there is also a need to see where the EU can manoeuvre.  The cost of no deal is just too appalling, particularly for Ireland and especially the beef sector.”

“We welcome the focus on a level playing field by the EU side.  It is notable that the European focus has been on keeping that playing field level not just now but into the future.  However, the EU has always found ways to strike a deal, most notably the Mercosur deal, even though doubts persist about the enforceability of fair play in Brazil.   Ultimately, pragmatism is needed, and that will require give and take from both sides.”

“EU leaders have every right to be exasperated by the British approach to the process. It is understandable that the gunboat approach to diplomacy is not tolerated by the EU.  However, all that needs to be put aside at this critical hour.  We need a deal now and the Irish government must emphasise that through private channels with EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.”

“ICSA is meeting the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and the Marine tomorrow (Tuesday 15th) on Brexit.”



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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.”