The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has a huge membership base in the beef sector and works hard to represent beef farmers and their interests both in Ireland and at EU level.
ICSA wants to ensure that our demand for a regulator for the beef food chain is delivered. ICSA first proposed this in 2014 and then brought it to Europe when we outlined the injustices of the food chain to Commissioner Hogan who undertook to do something about unfair trading practices. It is now time to turn this vision into reality and establish a regulator with real power to audit and investigate what goes on in the food chain. Robust and effective regulation is long overdue a regulator to permanently oversee the beef chain is a must.
ICSA continues to challenge processors regarding key issues such as weight and age restrictions as well as the movement of cattle. On your behalf ICSA challenges all deductions from your factory cheque, be it penalties, insurance, post-mortem contingency charges or levies. Remember, ICSA takes no levies.
ICSA is demanding protection of our valuable live exports and that Government would increase their efforts to secure new markets for live exports.
ICSA is committed to defending the Irish beef industry from the looming threats of international trade deals. ICSA has made it clear in Brussels that the Irish beef sector is very vulnerable. Farmers cannot be expected to compete with lower standard produce from outside the EU flooding the market. This is particularly true of vast quantities of South American beef entering the EU on the back of trade deals such as Mercosur.
ICSA Beef Committee
Hailing from Ballyleck in Co Monaghan, Edmund Graham focuses primarily on his weanling to beef and stores to beef enterprises.
“In ICSA our priority is to address the dysfunctional relationship between farmers and factories. Real transparency around who makes what along the food chain must be delivered, and excess profiteering on the part of processors and retailers must be exposed.”
ICSA Sheep Committee
Farming in Lismacaffrey, Co. Westmeath, Sean McNamara is a sheep and suckler farmer.
“In my view, it’s all about family farm profitability. Family drystock farms must become profitable again, and our aim should be to at least achieve the average industrial wage. ICSA firmly believes that farmers should be paid a fair price for their produce and will not stand back as others profiteer massively at the expense of hard-working farmers.”
ICSA believes that Ireland needs to be careful that any increase in sheep production is in response to an increased demand on UK and European markets. We also want to see an end to the severe upper weight limits being imposed by the meat factories, which seriously erode sheep farmers’ profits.
Sheep exports were worth €294m in 2019, yet the sector is not receiving the attention it deserves and sheep farmers are fed up of being a political afterthought. ICSA believes the need for a dedicated Sheep Taskforce is clear; the sector must be properly acknowledged, and the future viability of sheep farmers must be addressed.
ICSA believes it is unacceptable that sheep farmers have been left out of any Covid compensation packages. Likewise, despite repeated calls from ICSA, there has been no BEAM type scheme for sheep farmers to compensate for Brexit related market fluctuations. It is wholly unfair that aid has been targeted solely at the beef and dairy sectors while sheep farmers, those with the lowest incomes by far, are left out.
Transparency along the food chain is also equally important for sheep farmers. We need to ensure that any appointed Food Ombudsman has oversight over the trade in sheep meat, particularly when it comes to the huge volumes of lambs being imported into the country and the impact that it has on local farmers. We need to shine a light on who is making all the profit along the food chain, and why sheep farmers are not being paid enough to cover their cost of production.”
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The ICSA is dedicated to strongly representing the interests of Irish suckler farmers. It is clear that a strong suckler sector, producing quality weanlings is crucial to a strong beef industry; ICSA believes suckler farmers need to be supported as much as possible to maintain the strength of the sector.
A strong beef price is vital to the success of the farmer selling weanlings; ICSA’s work to ensure a long-term, sustainable margin for beef producers is also key to the long-term viability of suckler farms.
ICSA is insistent that suckler beef must be developed and promoted as a unique high value product. 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 hugely active in the area of knowledge transfer among suckler farmers. The Association regularly hosts suckler farm open days in various parts of the country, which attract large crowds and generate very positive feedback, both from an educational and social point of view. We also keep our members informed of any changes to the terms of the BDGP and BEEP schemes and issue reminders of how to keep within the rules of the scheme to safeguard payment.
ICSA Suckler Committee
ICSA suckler chair Ger O’Brien runs a suckler enterprise with 60 cows. His farm is located in Mallardstown, near Callan, in County Kilkenny.
“The priority for ICSA’s suckler committee is to ensure the schemes in CAP Pillar 2 deliver more support for suckler farmers and are matched with stronger national co-funding. In particular we need to see a new and improved BDGP scheme based on breeding quality beef using terminal and maternal sires, export grade weanlings and valuable cows both as calf producers and cull cows. In addition, ICSA wants to see a national policy devised for the international promotion of suckler beef as a niche product with the objective of increasing returns to producers. This would include a marketing strategy for suckler beef and PGI status specifically for sucklers.”
ICSA Rural Development Committee:
Hailing from Taughmaconnell, Co Roscommon Mr Farrell is a suckler farmer who believes passionately that rural communities should be a safe and viable place to live and prosper.
“It is important for ICSA to work for all our members and the communities in which they live. We listen to farmers concerns and address the real issues affecting their lives.”
ICSA is committed to furthering the cause of rural development in Ireland and giving a strong voice to the issues that affect rural dwellers across the country.
ICSA is fighting to ensure fair distribution of Pillar 2 funds through the Rural Development Programme to support the drystock sectors. ICSA is lobbying for an improved Rural Development Programme which delivers money to farmers not professionals.
ICSA believes a trebling of the current GLAS budget is the only realistic way to approach a new REPS type scheme. Farmers were let down by the drastic cuts in payments when they moved from the original REPS, through AEOS and on to GLAS, which coincided with an increasing expectation that farmers should do more on climate change and biodiversity. Those expectations are still there, but the penny must drop that those expectations cannot be met without adequate levels of financial support and reward. The hope is that 70,000 farmers would opt into a new REPS type scheme and in order to facilitate those numbers an annual budget of €750m would be the minimum required. This amounts to a trebling of the current GLAS budget of around €250m.
ICSA continues to say NO to unfair LPIS penalties. We firmly believe that no farmer should be penalised for maintaining land that had previously been told was eligible. ICSA is absolutely opposed to any five-year retrospective penalties and are currently involved in a legal challenge to such penalties.
ICSA’s Rural Development committee, under the direction of Mr Farrell, are also committed to tackling many issue facing rural communities on a daily basis including rural crime, mental health and rural isolation in farming and the financial pressures that are currently facing many farmers.
Animal Health & Welfare
The ICSA Animal Health & Welfare Committee, led by committee chair Hugh Farrell, is focused on ensuring the farming community’s voice is heard as animal health and welfare policies are decided.
As stakeholders in the TB Forum, ICSA has sought to ensure fair valuations for farmers under the On Farm Market Valuation Scheme (OFMV) in the event of a TB breakdown. It is crucial that farmers receive fair compensation for their losses, and that they can avail of further supports through the Income Supplement and Hardship Grant schemes.
Further, ICSA is pushing for reform of the TB Eradication Programme’s wildlife programme, to include increasing the numbers of badgers tested and culled. A reformed wildlife programme must also include a new and radical approach to dealing with the spread of TB linked to wild deer populations.
Members of the Animal Health & Welfare committee also participate in Animal Health Ireland’s BVD, Johnes Disease, and IBR implementation groups.
ICSA Animal Health & Welfare Committee
Hugh Farrell is a suckler farmer from Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan.
“ICSA is there to be the voice of the farmer when crucial policies affecting their businesses are being formed. We believe consulting farmers on the ground is central to forming policies that are fair and workable.”
ICSA Organics Committee
Fergal Byrne is an organic suckler, sheep and tillage farmer from Calverstown, Co. Kildare. As well as being passionate about Organic farming, Fergal is also a founding menber of the Irish Wool Steering Group, which is aiming to reviatalise the Irish wool industry.
The Organics sector is set to benefit from significant investment over the course of the next CAP. However, we at ICSA believe that a strategy to significantly expand exports of Irish organic produce must be developed in tandem with the push to expand the sector. Such a strategy is required to ensure the proposed allocation of €256m to the sector as part of the next CAP does not go to waste.
ICSA has always argued for greater numbers of cattle and sheep farmers to be supported in switching over to organic farming. As a result of this investment more farmers than ever will have that opportunity, but to attract farmers to the Organics Scheme we must find markets for what they will produce.
When it comes to education and training, organic farmers and organic production systems have also been marginalised for far too long. If we are serious about expecting to find 6,500 new organic farmers to reach 7.5% of land under organics then Teagasc will have to allocate the necessary resources to the areas of organic research, training, and advice.
We also need to revisit some of the requirements attached to the Organics Scheme that can create barriers for those wishing to switch. In particular, ICSA wants to see changes made to the requirements around housing winter cattle so that housing on slats could be facilitated. Current organics regulations require a lie back area which is not available to many cattle farmers. This is a real impediment for many due to the scarcity of straw and massive cost associated to converting yards and sheds to suit the Organics Scheme. We also know that the high cost of organic ration already makes winter finishing very unattractive.
ICSA tillage chair Gavin Carberry has said rising fertiliser costs – associated with the unprecedented surge in natural gas price in Europe – are set to batter tillage farmers and supports will have to be directed their way. “From fuel to fertiliser, all our costs have gone up substantially. There is also no indication at present that these costs won’t spiral further out of control,” he said.
“The massive hikes in input costs shows how badly we need CAP supports to be directed at productive farmers. We must keep the pressure on to ensure that active farmers in the low-income sectors are the priority in the next CAP.”
Mr Carberry said while supports are necessary the price of commodities like grain and beef will also have to increase in line with these unsustainable input price hikes. “It is not feasible to expect farmers to absorb all these extra costs. We will simply be driven out of business.”
ICSA Tillage Committee
Gavin Carberry is a tillage farmer from Ardee in County Louth.
“ICSA is committed to supporting the lower income sectors of cattle, sheep and tillage. It is important that we work together and ensure CAP supports are diverted to these sectors – the ones that need them the most.”
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