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ICSA objected to dairy aid emergency top-up

Jan 27, 2016 | ICSA in the Media | 0 comments

Farmer’s Journal – January 26, 2016

By Amy Nora Fitzgibbon 
 Cattle at Kilkenny mart, Cillin Hill.
  • Cattle at Kilkenny mart, Cillin Hill.

The organisation representing Irish cattle and sheep farmers (ICSA) lobbied senior Government officials in the latter half of 2015, calling for a fairer distribution of the dairy farmer top-up.

According to the new lobbying register, the ICSA called for a fairer distribution among all sectors of the €13.7m emergency aid top-up for dairy and pig farmers, which was announced back in December 2015.

The top-up from the Irish Government matched the EU package secured for both sectors in September 2015, following European-wide protests over falling incomes in the dairy and pig sectors.

In 2015, milk price fell from an average of 34c/l in January to an average of 25c/l by the end of the summer. And, according to Teagasc’s National Farm Survey for 2015, net margin per hectare on dairy farms in 2015 fell by an average of €230/ha in 2015 compared with 2014.

ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch and other ICSA officials, including president Patrick Kent, lobbied the Government over the last few months of 2015 via face-to-face conversations and email to ensure that the top-up would be spread out among the sectors.

Speaking about the lobbying campaign to the Irish Farmers Journal, Punch acknowledged that 2015 was a bad year for dairy farming but added that even in that year, dairy farming was more profitable than beef or sheep.

“Beef also had a very bad year in 2014. But did that sector get any money from the Government?”

He added that ring-fencing “scarce national funds” for the most profitable sector [dairying] is wrong and that “any money like that should have been spread out more evenly among all sectors”.

Top-up should be reviewed annually

Reacting to the news of the top-up when it was first announced, dairy farmer Martin Dowd, who owns a 45-cow dairy herd in Roscommon, said dairy farmers are “certainly more entitled” to it than other producers, but that could change.

“Dairy farmers suffered a massive drop in incomes in 2015,” he said, “an almost 50% cut. Butthings are due to look up for the dairy sector in the second half of 2016, while beef prices are forecast to come under pressure. So I think the top-up should be reviewed on an annual basis to see which sector is most deserving.”

On this note, Punch said although the ICSA’s bid to have the top-up distributed among all sectors was unsuccessful, the fact that dairy farmers received money from the Government in a bad year means that beef farmers will have more leverage in 2016, when beef prices are forecast to come into difficulty.

“Teagasc is predicting the latter half of 2016 will be tough for beef producers, so hopefully the dairy farmer top-up will give us a bit of leverage when it comes to asking for money in case of any difficulties this year,” said Punch.

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ICSA president Sean McNamara has said the decision by the EU Council of Environment ministers to pass the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) today will cause serious unease amongst many Irish farmers. “As it stands, we have no clarity around how this law will be implemented in Ireland and what the consequences will be, especially for those on peaty soils. It is yet another example of an initiative being imposed on farmers that is heavy on targets and light on how those targets will be met or how they will be funded,” he said.

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