November 14th 2014
There was a large attendance at the public discussion organised by ICSA on Thursday night at the West Lodge Hotel, Bantry. The focus of the discussion was on the future of the suckler herd and the demise of disadvantaged areas, and speakers included ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch, ICSA rural development chairman Billy Gray and Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris.
According to ICSA West Cork Chairman Dermot Kelleher, there is huge concern about the future of farming in disadvantaged areas. “Once upon a time, we had disadvantaged areas and severely disadvantaged areas. Now we have disadvantaged areas and areas where they don’t want us to farm at all. Farmers in areas of marginal land feel abandoned by the Minister and his officials.”
“The LPIS review has disproportionately affected farmers in disadvantaged areas, many of whom have yet to receive their DAS or Single Payments this year due to delays in processing appeals,” he continued. “These farmers have bills to pay and mouths to feed and they are in limbo. ICSA has called on the Minister to clarify the situation in relation to appeals, but so far he has failed to do so.”
ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch reported on the agreement reached at the beef roundtable talks the previous night. “ICSA was working on the key issues around specifications when nobody else wanted to know, most notably at the ploughing championships when we got a lot of support because we were the only group campaigning on issues such as weight, age, a quality assurance bonus on only 1 in 4 when 90% of animals slaughtered were coming from quality assured farms and the manipulation of free trade in marts through abuse of the quality assurance scheme with residency and movement restrictions,” he said.
“The intervention of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission effectively removed the issue of price from the discussions, and therefore movement on specifications was vital. Resolving the specs issue is also key to the long-term improvement of both confidence and returns. “Weight limits for all cattle are now to be lifted until January 2016. There is a commitment that processors, Bord Bia and, where appropriate, the Minister, will seek to persuade customers that the age specification should be changed from 30 months to 36 months. There will also be a review of movement restrictions and residency periods which have hampered the mart trade.”
“ICSA does have concerns about the proposed changes to the Quality Assurance bonus,” continued Mr. Punch. “While the numbers of steers and heifers getting the bonus should increase under these proposals, ICSA wants to see the bonus paid on all animals from Quality Assured herds, not just steers and heifers. However, there is a commitment to examining bull beef production systems at the next Beef Roundtable in January, including consideration of the Quality Assurance Scheme and the Quality Assurance bonus.”