ICSA Chief slates multi-billion euro Food Wise strategy as ‘ludicrous.’

The ten year €19 billion Food Wise 2025 projection for the Irish agri-food sector was announced in 2015 by the then Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

Launched by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Food Wise also envisages the creation of 23,000 new agri-food related jobs by 2025.

Sligo News File Online.

The President of the ICSA has said Teagasc figures “showing a likely drop of more than 10% drop in beef prices in 2017” have highlighted “how much current agriculture policies and the national strategy for expansion are out of touch with reality on the ground.”

Patrick Kent, President. ICSA.
Patrick Kent, President. ICSA.

Speaking following the release of the Teagasc Outlook for Agriculture Income in 2017, Mr. Kent said the Food Wise 2025 strategy, which he referred to as a call on beef farmers to expand production, “can now only be described as ludicrous advice.

“It simply does not make sense anymore…new policies need to be explored,” he said.

Branding the Teagasc report as “shocking in terms of the outlook for the beef sector in 2017,” he said this was “not surprising. It has been blatantly clear that this was coming down the line for beef farmers.”

Simon Coveney, Former Minister for Agriculture.
Simon Coveney,
Former Minister for Agriculture.

Figures, he said, “indicate that there are too many cattle in the country. With an additional 200,000 head of cattle for slaughter forecast for 2017, it is evident that new policies will have to be considered to address this new reality.

“Advising expansion in a loss making enterprise seems insane when it will only result in greater losses. When cattle numbers are up, prices have always gone down. The idea of cutting production in the beef sector now needs to be given serious consideration.”

Continuing, Mr. Kent said “adding insult to injury, the Teagasc figures also indicate that dairy incomes are set to hit record levels 2017. We have seen continued rescue packages for that sector while other sectors are addressed merely as an afterthought.

The figures, he added, “must be seen as a wake-up call given that none of what Teagasc has predicted for beef farmers should come as a surprise to anyone.”

EPA report says fracking could go ahead but highlights paucity of environmental data.

Study released a month after Dail vote on Bill to outlaw the controversial process.

Sligo News File Online.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said fracking could proceed in Ireland.

Tony McLoughlin, T.D., Fine Gael.
Tony McLoughlin, T.D.,
Fine Gael.

However, a report by the agency references concerns over three environmental impacts about which it states there is insufficient data at present

Released today, the findings have come a month after the Dáil unanimously supported a bill to ban fracking published by Sligo-Leitrim Fine Gael Deputy, Tony McLoughlin

Commenting this afternoon, McLoughlin said the Bill provided for a clear and unequivocal position to be taken concerning the “exploration and extraction of petroleum from shale rock, tight sands and coal seams on the Irish onshore and also in our internal waters.

The Bill “did not seek to simply ban the technology associated with fracking,” he said, “rather it seeks to ban the act of taking oil and gas out of the ground, where usually fracking would be needed.”

Minister of State, Denis Naughten says it is his opinion the EPA report justifies the decision to continue to ban hydraulic fracking in the country.

Still no new government investment in North West industrial development.

Fears Fianna Fail backed Coalition hell-bent on holding major industry in the East.

Sligo News File Online

Some funding has been allocated for North West projects, but there still has been no announcement of any significant government investment in job-creating industrial development.

Tony McLoughlin, T.D., Fine Gael.
Tony McLoughlin, T.D.,
Fine Gael.

It is feared the Fianna Fail backed Coalition government is intent on concentrating major industry primarily in the East of the country, leaving areas like Sligo and Leitrim to rely on the fragile tourism sector for survival.

Sligo, in particular, is facing an uphill struggle to maintain existing retail business – many commercial units have closed or changed hands in the town and county.

Are TDs too tame in their approach to securing overdue new development? Sligo-Leitrim has four Dail deputies – Martin Kenny, Sinn Fein, Marc MacSharry and Eamon Scanlon, both Fianna Fail and Tony McLoughlin, Fine Gael.

Projects for which funding has been announced include a new discovery centre at Knock Airport in Mayo. Other allocations have been made for angling and food tasting in Leitrim, upgrading of town facilities in County Donegal and activities at Ox Mountains biking centre and an enterprise operation in Tubbercurry.

McLoughlin has said the aid will boost the local economy and improve living standards in the rural hinterland.

ICSA rips into ‘latest EU Commission leaked proposals on biofuels’

No scientific basis for decision.

Risk to tens of thousands of jobs.

Sligo News File Online

It would appear the EU is backing away from its existing policy on biofuels.

Patrick Kent, President. ICSA.
Patrick Kent, President. ICSA.

According to the ICSA, leaked Commission proposals apparently reveal moves to slash the target for the crop biofuel component of EU transport fuels from 7% to 3.4% by 2030.

President of the Association, Patrick Kent said the Commission “which was supportive of biofuels has now decided to reverse its position without any scientific basis for so doing.”

The strategy, he said, “flies in the face of logic.

“What the Commission is proposing to do will deny tillage farmers access to an important income stream and also puts at risk tens of thousands of jobs across Europe.”

It will also, he said, end investor interest in EU biofuels, have a direct knock-on effect on the efforts to revive the Irish sugar industry and make it harder to achieve EU targets to cut GHG emissions from road traffic.

“Perhaps the most ludicrous aspect of the direction the Commission is taking the EU is that the problem which it is trying to solve – the upsurge in palm oil imports into Europe – has nothing to do with European farmers and could be resolved if the Commission and the Member States applied the sustainability criteria set out in EU law and adopted a more differentiated approach to biofuels than the simplistic approach now being advanced.”

He said, “ICSA wants to see crop-based biofuels supported because they offer a real option for hard- pressed farmers to make money rather than being totally reliant on food and feed which are in surplus in Europe.

“We see desperate attempts to find new markets for food everywhere from China to Africa which reflects the fact that EU farmers are producing more food and feed than we can consume in Europe. Yet we have spent years listening to lectures about how EU farmers should not be supported to produce excess food which would be then ‘dumped’ in Africa to the detriment of African agriculture.”

“Sustainable crop-based biofuels provide a win-win in Europe. Contrary to the ludicrous notion that forests will be levelled and bogs drained, crop-based biofuels can fill multiple roles from each hectare grown.

“A hectare used for biofuels still produces top class animal feed as a by-product of the fuel production process. As an additional bonus, the by-product feed is higher in protein and thus reduces the need for soya imports from South America.

“In truth, it is the over-dependence on soya imports that is the real cause of forest destruction albeit in South America. There is no credible evidence of struggling farmers in Europe making totally uneconomic investments to reclaim forest or bog to produce animal feeds for livestock systems that are barely viable in 2016.”

“For years now, we have listened to EU Commissioners laud the multifunctional character of EU agriculture. In part, this was because both WTO rules and NGO pressures were hostile to policies which subsidised extra food exports from Europe. It is now hypocritical to reverse direction and say that much needed renewable fuels are no longer acceptable and that we should go back to expanding food exports to markets in the least developed countries.

He said the ICSA is now calling on all of the parties in Dail Eireann to “live up to the undertakings that they have given on the issue of sugar/biofuel production” and to reject at national and EU level any cuts in the existing EU support for this.

Government thumbs down to groundbreaking cystic fibrosis therapy

Fianna Fail Deputy lashes decision as ‘deeply concerning.’

Sligo News File Online.

As TDs avail of multi-thousand euro salary top-ups and the Fianna Fail backed Coalition refuses to accept billions in back tax from the Apple corporation, patients with cystic fibrosis are being told the country cannot afford a drug which would alleviate their suffering.

Marc MacSharry, TD, Fianna Fail
Marc MacSharry, TD,
Fianna Fail

Orkambi is an oral treatment that helps in correcting the mutated genes in those with cystic fibrosis. It is described by the developers as “a novel therapeutic approach designed to treat the root cause of cystic fibrosis instead of just the severity of symptoms.”

But the government has seemingly turned down the groundbreaking medication, declaring that the cost per patient is too high.

Cystic Fibrosis Ireland has pointed out that Orkambi is expensive because of the huge costs of developing the drug. The price, they say, is also influenced by “the relatively few patients worldwide from whom the pharma company can seek to recoup their costs and to invest in further research.”

While supporting the government in getting the “fairest price” for the therapy, they have said its use would see “very significant CF Lungssavings to the government arising from the dramatic decrease in hospitalisations arising from those on this drug.”

Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry has branded what he takes to be the government’s mindset on the treatment as “absurd.”

He said that “following a meeting of the HSE Drugs Committee, it is expected that the government will formally announce its decision to refuse to provide the Orkambi drug to suitable CF sufferers.”

The Fianna Fail Deputy said Ireland has the “highest prevalence of CF in the world and therefore every effort should have been made to have this drug put on shelves in pharmacies nationwide.

“To learn that the government has rejected adding this game-changing drug to the Long-Term Illness Scheme for CF sufferers when lives have been significantly improved and saved is deeply concerning.”

He said the Minister “must now answer critical questions such as why the government and the HSE have decided not to grant access to the Orkambi drug, and why the cost of this drug is being prioritised over the value of saving lives.

CF Ireland“The value of life and clear savings of treatment with this drug through the reduced need for acute care far out ways any monetary cost. “

“This drug was approved by the EU Medicines Agency some time ago and has been proven to be of major benefit for cystic fibrosis sufferers. Furthermore, it has been shown to extend life expectancy and significantly improve the quality of life for those who suffer from the disease.

“Ultimately, that should far outweigh any criteria for assessment, and the HSE should have kept that at the top of mind when it came to denying this medication.

Stating that he intends to raise the issue in the Dail during the coming week, he concluded that “there must simply be a reversal of this decision for CF sufferers in Ireland.”

Boat to Libya welcome but more live exports needed in 2017 – ICSA

‘We have to question our strategy.’

Sligo News File Online

ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan has said that live exporters are currently seeking cattle for a boat to Libya. While welcoming the news, he stressed, however, that “many more boats will be required to deal with the substantial increase in cattle forecast for 2017.”

He said:

“The Libyans are looking for bulls, with a wide range of weights,

Edmond Phelan, chairman, ICSA National Beef Committee.
Edmond Phelan, chairman, ICSA National Beef Committee.

ranging from 400-700kg liveweight. While they have a preference for beef breeds, they are also looking at Friesian cattle. A good market for heavier bulls is very desirable. However, according to Bord Bia forecasts at the Beef Roundtable there is potentially an extra 200,000 cattle for slaughter in 2017 compared to 2015.

“We are sleepwalking into trouble with these figures unless we get a huge upturn in live shipping. We can see the disastrous effect an extra 65,000 cattle throughput this year has had, this is going to be multiplied by three next year. Already we have seen how the average weekly kill this back-end has been some 4,000 cattle a week higher than the equivalent weekly kill in 2015. To put it in context, we would need a boat, carrying 4,000 head, going out every single week in 2017 to bring markets back into balance.

“We have to question what our strategy is to deal with all the extra dairy calves, mostly Holstein but with increasing Jersey and Kiwi Cross genetics. Either we export them as veal or find some other way of getting out of them but there is no doubt that they are a disaster for the livestock trade and for the viability of beef farming in this country.”

Another nail in coffin of struggling Sligo economy

Councillors sanction new record high commercial rate on rural  businesss.

Sinn Fein abstain from vote.

Sligo News File Online.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail members of Sligo County Council have voted to raise the commercial rate on rural shops and other local enterprises, sparking fears for the future of the already struggling rural economy

Margaret Gormley, an Independent member of the authority, said

Cllr. Margaret Gormley: Hike in commercial rate will result in closure of rural businesses
Cllr. Margaret Gormley:
Hike in commercial rate will result in closure of rural businesses

she was deeply disappointed at the decision, especially since many smaller businesses are barely surviving as it is.

She believed the increase in the commercial rate- which comes at the same time that the rate on urban-based premises is being slashed – will lead to business closures across the rural hinterland.

The motion to increase the rural rate was supported by councillors Tommie MacSharry, Jerry Lundy, Keith Henry and Seamus Kilgannon, all Fianna Fail and Hubert Keaney, Sinead Maguire and Dara Mulvey, Fine Gael. It was opposed by Cllrs. Paul Taylor and Martin Baker, Fianna Fail, and Independents Margaret Gormley, Marie Casserley, Michael Clarke and Joseph Queenan. Cllrs.Thomas Healy and Sean MacManus, Sinn Fein abstained. Cllrs. Rosaleen O’Grady, Fianna Fail and Gino O’Boyle, People Before Profit were absent.

In another potentially crippling blow for the rural economy, some farmers face losing their holdings as pressure grows for the settlement of unpaid loans.

According to reports, agri representatives have been receiving calls and letters from distraught farm owners who claim they are being ‘bullied’ by some financial institutions.

There is growing concern that a generation of farm families could be wiped out as vulture funds or other financial entities take possession of land holdings up and down the country.

The pressure of unresolvable debt is driving many farmers to suicide, it is feared.

One prominent campaigner has said that when farmers lose their land and home,”they lose their life, and their children lose their futures.”

Crisis in health services caused by ‘bogus budgets and ministerial misadventures’ – Fianna Fail TD

‘Need for additional 1,600 beds, 28 in Sligo alone’

Sligo News File Online.

A Fianna Fail TD apparently believes the rundown of the country’s health service is a recent occurrence.

Ignoring the scale of the neglect visited on the service while a Fianna Health 1Fail-led government was at the helm, Marc MacSharry has instead focussed attention on the last five years of the system

In this time, he says, the service has been starved of resources.

The result of what he describes as a “series of bogus budgets and Ministerial misadventures” has “reduced services, out of control waiting lists and an overcrowding crisis in our Emergency Departments.

To relieve the pressure, “we need an additional 1,600 acute beds; 28 of those in Sligo University Hospital alone,” he said.

He has also called for the rollout of other options.

“There are hundreds of people being cared for in our hospitals who would much prefer to receive this care at home.

“By facilitating this, we would not only give people back the opportunity to live in their own homes, but it would also relieve the pressure on hospital beds.”

The Social Welfare Bill, he added, “provides an opportunity for the government to switch the responsibility for the carer’s allowance to the Department of Health.

“Together with the relaxation of the means test, this may give more people the opportunity, along with other supports such as medical cards, adaptation grants and so on, to have the dignity of being cared for in their own homes.”