ICSA president Sean McNamara has vowed to stand up for fairness for farmers, to stand up for realness in the food security debate, and to stand up for the good work farmers have already done – and are doing – on climate action during his inaugural speech as president of the association. Mr McNamara took over the reins from outgoing ICSA president, Dermot Kelleher, at the ICSA AGM and Annual Conference held in Athlone on Thursday (1 Feb 2024).
Mr McNamara referred to the ongoing farmer led protests taking place on the continent. He said he stood in solidarity with his European counterparts in France, in the Netherlands, in Germany and in Brussels. “Much like us in ICSA, these farmers are seeking a fair price for their produce, less regulation, and protection from cheaper imports from outside the EU. We stand shoulder to shoulder with any farmer seeking basic fairness and freedom to farm, plain and simple,” he said.
Mr McNamara said his “overarching priority as president of ICSA is to ensure that farm families – working day in day out on family farms around the country – can make a viable living from farming. This means we must help farmers not just survive but thrive economically. This means that their hard work should result in a good living. This means that they are earning enough to support their families. This means they can continue to use sustainable practices for the environment and future generations. This means that we prioritise young farmers. This also means that it is crucial that we develop policies to support this.”
As the new president of ICSA Mr McNamara set out five key pillars that will be the focus of his tenure. These are:
- Viable incomes, fair product prices and support schemes that work for farmers.
- The right balance between food security and sustainability
- Dignity and appreciation for farmers and improving their mental health.
- Land, property, and carbon rights.
- Progress on animal disease especially TB and BVD.
Guided by these five pillars Mr McNamara said he was committed to:
- Ensuring guaranteed fair prices to sustain current farmers and inspire the next generation.
- Defending small abattoirs and supporting live exports to provide competition and hope to farmers.
- Advocating for transparency in the food chain through the new AgriFood Regulator.
- Ensuring timely delivery of budget money to farmers without overly complicated terms and conditions attached.
- Urgently addressing administrative issues causing delays in payments to scheme participants.
- Urging the Minister to reconsider the cap on ACRES applicants to accommodate more farmers supporting environmental conservation.
- Seeking a balanced approach to the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) scheme and addressing farmer concerns around changes to the ICBF ratings.
- Highlighting the need for accurate climate facts, financial benefits for stored carbon, and opposing unrealistic aspects of the EU Green Deal.
Addressing Minister McConalogue directly the president said Ireland must lead the way in Europe, standing up for fairness, food security, and defending farmers’ contributions to sustainability. He said the Mercosur deal must be discarded in favour of supporting European farmers.
He also called for urgent action to fix issues like the Residential Zoned Land Tax (RZLT) and highlighted the need for guarantees against devaluing farmers’ land through the EU Nature Restoration Law. Additionally, the president stressed the importance of proper funding to tackle escalating wildlife issues, especially the deer problem, and full funding for BVD testing.
Concluding his address Mr McNamara reaffirmed his commitment to fight for fair prices for farmers, calling for €8/kg for lamb and at least €6/kg for beef in 2024. He said a fair return on investment is essential to prevent farmers from leaving the sector and that he was determined to address the challenges facing farmers and shape a sustainable and prosperous future for Irish farmers.