28th January, 2016
ICSA national president Patrick Kent today launched the association’s pre-election manifesto. Setting the agenda for the next Government formed the theme of the ICSA Annual AGM and conference which took place in Portlaoise today (January 28, 2016).
The four key pillars that ICSA wants the next government to build its agriculture strategy on are:
No 1: Provide a regulatory environment and a public support regime that’s fair to all farmers.
No 2: A clear focus on producing only what there are viable markets for.
No 3: Do everything possible to get a fair share of profits for farmers.
No 4: Put live exports top of the agenda.
Addressing Minister Simon Coveney and members of ICSA National Executive, Mr Kent called on the next government to put huge emphasis on live exports. He attacked the decision to use scarce national funds to provide extra supports for dairy farmers when it was clear that even in a bad year their incomes were far superior to cattle and sheep incomes. He called for changes in the Department to deliver all payments on time to all farmers. Mr Kent moved on to challenge the national strategy for expansion stating that instead we should focus on producing only what we have viable markets for. The ICSA president then demanded that the next government focus on getting a fair share of profits from the food chain for farmers.
On the regulatory environment Mr Kent said ICSA “believe there are unresolved issues around old young farmers who were excluded from the national reserve and we want this revisited.” He also stated that ICSA “welcomes recent proposals from Commissioner Hogan to provide more flexibility on overclaims up to 10% but we don’t think he goes far enough.”
Mr Kent said we are once again seeing the consequences of cattle being too plentiful, “weight limits as low as 400kg are being implemented. These weights are totally unworkable in the continental breed sucklers and they take away any chance of the beef finisher making a margin.”
“ICSA wants to see a strategy to divert at least 5% of livestock production into other land uses. Forestry and alternative energy crops need more attractive incentives. The objective from an ICSA perspective is to tighten up cattle and sheep supplies,” he said.
Addressing the looming threats of international trade deals, particularly TTIP and Mercosur. Mr Kent insisted “our government needs to take a much harder and more proactive line to defend the interests of Irish beef farming.”
On supermarket dominance “ICSA wants an EU regulator to audit the food chain to see who gets what margin. It is not acceptable that we have no transparency around retail or processor margins on meat or dairy for instance.”
Bord Bia will also need to focus more on marketing “our clean green image, but also have a mandate to ensure better returns for farmers.” He said “top quality farmers are failing Quality Assurance inspections for trivial reasons. We need a charter for this so that farmers have time to get it right and that ensures that good farmers do not have their livelihoods undermined overnight on the whim of an inspector.”
Concluding, Mr Kent said that above all ICSA wants to “see a robust approach to the abuse of EU beef labelling laws by UK supermarkets. Their refusal to sell product born in the Republic and finished in the UK including Northern Ireland is completely contrary to the EU principle of free movement of goods. We must have the option of live exports to Northern Ireland and the UK.”
Please find copy of Mr Kent’s speech attached.