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ICSA CAP FUNDING REACTION: ONLY THE ICSA PLAN CAN DELIVER ON THE AGRI-ENVIRONMENT, SUCKLER, SHEEP AND BEEF PAYMENTS AMBITION

‘Although Minister McConalogue has worked hard to get an increased budget for the rural development programme, there just isn’t enough to deliver anywhere near €300/cow, €35/ewe, an early finishing support of €100/head and a decent agri-environment scheme worth up to €15,000’

Sligo News File

Dermot Kelleher, president. Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association

 ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has said that the €3.86 billion funding package for CAP announced today will not be anywhere near enough to deliver the key ICSA proposals unless the Minister also opts for coupled suckler and sheep payments or transfers money from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2.

“Although Minister McConalogue has worked hard to get an increased budget for the rural development programme, there just isn’t enough to deliver anywhere near €300/cow, €35/ewe, an early finishing support of €100/head and a decent agri-environment scheme worth up to €15,000.

“I am very frustrated that the Department is not interested in delivering what is required to support the low-income sectors and to have an ambitious enough agri-environmental scheme to reward farmers who go the extra mile for the green agenda. On the other hand, the increase in funding for the organic scheme looks like it is unrealistically high.

“ICSA also called for 25% top-up on sucklers and sheep for young farmers. I am calling again on the Minister to examine the ICSA proposals given that the funding announced is not going to do the things that most active farmers want. We must shift some of the Pillar 1 money to a coupled suckler and sheep payment and also transfer around €80 million from Pillar 2 to fund an early finishing incentive (Beef Carbon Efficiency Payment) as set out in the ICSA plan and video.

“It is now incumbent on all organisations to have an honest discussion about whether they will support the ICSA plan or else to propose another means of delivering the same results. It is equally incumbent on the Minister to explain how he proposes to move forward and demonstrate that he is listening to the majority of farmers in Ireland who want better supports for the low-income cattle and sheep sectors.

“I am also asking for a full explanation of the government’s plans to fully allocate the €1.5billion carbon taxes as new money, as promised in the Programme for Government.  A lot of the promised money is being deferred back to 2028-2030, it seems. This is not good enough.

“There’s been lots of talk about a €300 suckler cow payment, but only ICSA has the plan to deliver it.  It is now time to end the rhetoric and find a way to make this happen.

“ICSA acknowledges the huge effort made by the Minister on the funding front but we now have to begin the serious business of actually translating that into a working plan that will give hope to the beef, sheep and tillage sectors. If Ireland doesn’t return CAP payments to where they originally started, then the clear message is dairying or bust. And that won’t help farmers and it won’t deliver on the climate change agenda.  

“Only the ICSA plan can deliver €300/suckler cow; €35/ewe; €100/head beef finisher payment, and a worthwhile agri-environment scheme. It’s now time for all to work together to deliver this,” concluded Mr Kelleher.

Thirty jobs at Telus Ballina

Firm formerly operated as Lionbridge AI

Sligo News File

Telus International Data Solutions, formerly Lionbridge AI, has announced that it is creating 30 new jobs at its premises in Ballina.

Lionbridge, based at Teeling Street for the last 20 years, was brought within the Canadian Telus International operation some time back.

Flood relief to restart Lough Funshinagh in Roscommon

‘Work will comply with High Court order’

Sligo News File

Roscommon County Council’s decision to recommence flood relief at Lough Funshinagh will be welcomed by the local community.

Funshinagh is a turlough or disappearing lake which owing to not draining rapidly over the last few years has caused widespread flooding of surrounding homes and lands.

The issue was recently raised in the Dail by Sinn Fein TD Clare Kirrane when she hit out about the threatened state of the area. She told the Taoiseach that the flooding, an ongoing occurrence, was having a devastating effect on homes and lands in the vicinity of the lough, an SAC designated turlough. She said 600 hectares – about 1500 acres – of the farmlands lands were under water.

However, remedial work subsequently undertaken by the county council had to be suspended when the High Court in August granted an order directing an immediate stop to work following complaints that it breached environmental legislation.

But The Irish Times reports that now in a statement to them, the council has confirmed it “remains focussed” on “completing a solution to the flooding emergency at Lough Funshinagh”.

It states that the council has said that since the since the High Court challenge, which was taken by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), it had retained consultants to advise on how it “may lawfully carry out an emergency solution development without approval from An Bord Pleanála, or any other third party.”

The report adds that the council’s chief executive has said the works would be in compliance with the High Court order and costs of the legal challenge would be borne by the local authority.

 

 

ICSA reaction to climate targets: government must spend more on supporting agriculture sector

‘There is no point in doing more than the other member states if the price is the destruction of every rural community in the country’

 Sligo News File

Dermot Kelleher, president. Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has said it will be almost impossible to meet the agriculture climate change targets unless the government delivers a substantially higher investment in the sector while also recognising the role played by agriculture in sequestering carbon. “While all countries in the EU are focused on climate change, there is no country that will destroy its own vital national interests. Germany will not sacrifice its car or coal industries and Ireland must protect its vital agri-food sector.

“Therefore, while we all need to meet the climate change challenge, we need to move in step with other EU states. There is no point in doing more than the other member states if the price is the destruction of every rural community in the country.

“Producing food is not optional in a world where population continues to grow rapidly, and this means getting the balance right. Farmers are willing to play their part but there must be realism as well. Farmers have continuously put their money where others put their mouth when it comes to environmental investment. However, the target of 21-30% reduction in emissions cannot be done by farmers out of their own pocket nor should they be expected to carry the burden of saving the planet on their own.

“It is now obvious that the government must put significantly more funding into the CAP programme than has been envisaged. The ICSA proposals for a €15,000 agri-environment scheme and a beef carbon efficiency payment on top of much higher supports for sucklers and sheep are now looking like the minimum that will be required. This is particularly relevant in the context of maintaining a stable herd.” 

The ICSA president added that “if the funding for the ICSA proposals is not forthcoming, then there is no hope whatsoever of achieving these targets.

“ICSA will not accept any attempt to undermine the suckler herd or the beef finishing sector. These are vital national assets and are critical to many rural communities across the country. So ICSA is prepared to negotiate on how farming can play its part, but it must be a balanced discussion that recognises that agriculture is sequestering carbon as well as reducing emissions.” 

Taoiseach to officially open long awaited Collooney to Castlebaldwin road development

Public must pre-register to attend

Sligo News File

Media has been informed that the Taoiseach Michael Martin has been invited to officially open the new 14km N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin Road Alignment Project.

The ceremony, arranged for next Monday, at Castlebaldwin, requires those proposing to attend to pre-register for the event. According to the notice circulated from Sligo County Council, interested parties can register their interest by emailing neasa.kane-fine@rpsgroup.com. However, warns the message:  ‘…your attendance will not be guaranteed until you receive a confirmation email.’

Admittance, it adds, ‘is strictly limited to those who have registered and have been confirmed – if you have not pre-registered you will not be able to attend.

‘Social distancing measures will apply.

‘All media attending will be required to carry appropriate identification.

‘All those attending are required to wear a face covering.’

No reason is given for the stringent measures surrounding the launch of the taxpayer funded €100 million development – a development brought about following 16 years of campaigning by a dedicated local group. It replaces a road where tragically more than 30 fatalities have occurred.

 

 

 

 

Minister must support beef finishers with specific CAP payment – Graham

‘…payments have been steadily pared back to the extent that most beef finishing operations are now losing money.’

Edmund Graham, chairman ICSA Beef Committee

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has called on Minister McConalogue not to forget that beef finishers need to be recognised with a specific payment in the CAP reform. “With all the focus on climate change and the targets that will be set for the farming sector, it is a no-brainer to include funding for a beef carbon efficiency payment as set out in the ICSA CAP plan.

“Beef finishers are the sector that are going to be decimated by the flattening of payments in the CAP. Originally, beef finishers were the sector that were targeted for CAP payments with the dismantling of price supports and export refunds. But over recent years, their payments have been steadily pared back to the extent that most beef finishing operations are now losing money.

“If there are no beef finishers, then neither dairy farming nor suckler farming are sustainable in their current format. This has to be a key problem that needs addressing in the CAP strategy.

“The ICSA proposal is also a critical strategic response to the need to address climate change, both in terms of national emissions targets and also in terms of the need to meet EU objectives in our CAP plan. Like it or not, the EU Green Deal is going to put pressure on Ireland, and it makes a lot of sense to reduce emissions by finishing cattle earlier. But this won’t happen if the right incentives are not in place, and these incentives must be targeted at reasonable scale, commercial beef farmers.

“That’s why the Minister must look very carefully at the ICSA proposal for a €100/head payment on up to 150 cattle for finishing bulls, steers and heifers at an earlier age. This can be funded as set out in the ICSA plan but it will require that the Minister shows a commitment to our beef sector. It is also completely in accordance with the national ag-climatise strategy, so it really is a win-win proposal.”

Covid cases ‘uncomfortably high’

Warning: ‘difficult winter ahead’

Sligo News File

The ever rising level of Covid outbreaks is alarming health authorities. Thousands of cases are now being recorded on a daily basis – today’s figure has surged to 2180, with 406 in hospital, 71 of them in intensive care. Hospitals are coming under huge pressure, meaning also that the near million waiting on appointments for other medical conditions are being further delayed.

Speaking on RTÉ, HSE Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Colm Henry, described the number of cases as “uncomfortably high.” He warned of a difficult winter ahead.

Worldwide deaths from Covid has already risen to five million. Ireland’s death toll from the disease is currently at more than 5,300.

Taoiseach Michael Martin has said a presentation from Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ronan Glynn was “serious.” Referencing the sudden increase in case numbers, he said the trajectory of the disease had taken a wrong turn.

As cases continue to pile up, doubt has been cast over the confidently expected lifting of existing Covid restrictions. There is also a likelihood many of the already eased restrictions may be reimposed.    

Sinn Fein backs plans to outlaw pro-life protests near Northern abortion centres

Bill gets green light in Assembly vote

Sligo News File

Sinn Fein is reported to have backed proposals for the creation of exclusion zones around abortion providers in Northern Ireland.

Under the measure, all protests by pro-life bodies and individuals against abortion would be banned within the zones.

The bill, introduced, it’s said, by Green Party Northern Ireland Leader Clare Bailey is understood to also have the support of the Alliance and SDLP.

According to the BBC, the Assembly voted by 58 votes to 29 to allow the bill to proceed.

Last month, thousands took part in a march for life in the UK. The speakers included Bishop Paul Swarbrick of the Lancaster Diocese who, says the Catholic Arena, asked:

 “We’ve abolished the death penalty for the guilty, why do we still have it for the innocent?”

 

Taxes and levies to gobble up paltry increase in state pension

Free contraceptives

Sligo News File

No joy for the retired after the Coalition announced a spate of taxes which will entirely erode the value of the pathetic five euro state pension increase announced in Budget 2022.

Home heating oil, gas, briquettes and other household goods already soaring in price now sees Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Greens heaping the lot with sweeping carbon levies.

The price of electricity has already rocketed, as has the now further steeply taxed price of petrol, diesel and agricultural products. Electricity is also loaded with higher VAT and other government imposed charges.

For those lumbered with a tax on their homes, which is just about every family in the country, the rate has been sneakily escalated through the inclusion of domestic sheds, barns and driveways in the valuation of the house.

Farming is under attack as never before with demands for a whopping decrease in herds which only a few years ago farmers were being encouraged to expand. Prospects for the rural economy couldn’t be worse.

The health service is in chaos with nearly a million left waiting for hospital appointments.

In the education sector, students have to rely on penny dinner charities to survive.

But there is a bright spot: following the Budget, ladies between 17 and 25 will be able to obtain contraceptives free of charge.

Call for installation of CCTV cameras at Sligo cemetery

Distress over flowers taken from graves

Sligo News File

Security looks likely to be stepped up at Sligo cemetery following reports that items have been removed from graves in the ground.

A caller to the local radio station recently spoke of the distress of families over flowers and objects allegedly being taken from graves of deceased relatives.

Saying she had launched a petition requesting action on the issue, the caller added that it was “hard lines when our deceased loved ones can’t rest in peace.”

Now, the county council is to be asked to install CCTV cameras at the cemetery.

The request in the name of Cllr. Tom MacSharry is down for discussion at the next meeting of Borough District of Sligo Municipal on Monday.

 At the same meeting, motion submitted by Councillor Declan Bree is to ask that the Council indicate what action it has taken “to protect No’s 16 and 17 High Street, Sligo, (both buildings which are included in the Councils Record of Protected Structures).”

ICSA BUDGET REACTION: FOOD OMBUDSMAN FUNDING MUST BE A STEPPING STONE TO A MORE POWERFUL REGULATOR

‘…expenditure side of the budget was distinctly unimpressive when it comes to the schemes for 2022…’

Sligo News File

Dermot Kelleher, president. Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Assn

 ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has welcomed the announcement of funds to set up the Food Ombudsman office in the order of €4 million. “This must be used as a stepping stone to giving the office the powers of a regulator, which is contingent on additional legislation. ICSA welcomes the announcement, but we are unhappy that the process is taking longer than it should and we are now calling on Minister McConalogue to drive forward with the establishment of the office by early 2022.”

Mr Kelleher said that the expenditure side of the budget was distinctly unimpressive when it comes to the schemes for 2022 but he added that the key issue is now to ensure that the Government delivers full co-financing of the CAP rural development programme to 2027. “More importantly, Minister McConalogue must make a clear statement about how the €1.5bn carbon tax promised in the Programme for Government will be allocated. Although it was mentioned in today’s budget speech, we are still unclear about the spending spread over the next few years. ICSA wants to see much more ambition in the agri-environment expenditure. It is essential that we have more farmers in the pilot REAP next year and that this is a stepping stone to delivering a €15,000 agri-environment scheme in the new CAP from 2023 onwards.” 

The ICSA president has also expressed concern that the Zoned Land tax must provide an exemption for land which is actively farmed. “While this should really apply only in the cities where there are a lot of brownfield sites, the problem is that there is land which is being farmed which happens to be zoned on the periphery of towns and villages. This land should not be taxed because it is not critical to solving the housing crisis where it is most acute – in the big cities. Moreover, it should not be taxed because this is not speculative property, it is land that is being productively used to produce food.”

The ICSA president said that the extension of stock reliefs (to end of 2024) and young farmer stamp duty exemption (to end of 2022) is welcome but it is time to examine how to provide long-term certainty for these kinds of important reliefs. “There is no long-term certainty about reliefs such as the Capital Gains Tax relief on Farm Consolidation, and the stamp duty exemptions as well as stock relief. All these tax measures are not contentious; there is universal agreement that the economic benefits in terms of supporting the next generation of farmers and the support for improved productivity and efficiency outweigh minor costs to the exchequer.

However, there is a need to get more flexibility around the de-minimis state aid rules which are impacting the young farmer stamp duty exemption for example. ICSA has also made the argument to the Minister that repetitive reviews by the Department of Finance which means that various reliefs on capital taxes as well as stock relief are pointless and create unnecessary instability.”

Mr Kelleher said that the announcement of increased tax credits was welcome in the sense that farmers and other self-employed people now had fairness because of the earned income tax credit.  “For a long number of years, full-time self-employed people like farmers did not get fair play in relation to tax credits so today’s €50 increase, although minor, is allocated on the same basis to self-employed and employees.”   

SUPPORT NEEDED FOR TILLAGE FARMERS AS FERTILISER PRICES SOAR

From fuel to fertiliser, all our costs have gone up substantially

Sligo News File

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 availability and cost of fertiliser in particular is a real worry. As tillage farmers we just don’t know if we’ll be able to get our hands on what we need for next spring and what extortionate price we’re going to be expected to pay for it. Many of us just won’t be able to do it,” 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.”

Sligo Councillor poses question about road tarring operations

Matter down for debate at Sligo-Drumcriff  municipal district meeting

Sligo News File

Notice of motion as submitted by Councillor Donal Gilroy reads:

“To ask for Sligo County Council why the Road Tarring contractors Tar across Manholes, Gullies and Fire Hydrants but does not tar into the edges of the road instead choosing to leave a dangerous channel or drain that is a safety hazard. Good examples of this can be seen at Oxfield Road L3402 or the L7210-0 and L7211-0 at Ardnaglass Lower and Grogagh where the non-completion of the roadworks on these roads have left residents concerned and frustrated. They are concerned at the ongoing safety issues on the roads because of the recent roadworks being left incomplete, and at
the extra flooding which is now occurring in places where it never did before. The gullies on the side of the newly tarred roads are a danger to motorists, because of the slope between the road surface and the sides of the roads. There have even been anecdotal reports of incidents of vehicles losing control for this reason. As a result of the way the roads were left there is now serious flooding along some parts of the road which never experienced flooding before and residents require assurances that this will not now be an ongoing problem”

Councillor Gilroy is a Fianna Fail member of the council.

ECO-SCHEME: DAFM MUST ENGAGE SERIOUSLY WITH FARMERS ON WHAT IS PRACTICAL: ICSA

‘We need proper impact analysis of this’

Sligo News File

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has expressed concern that Department proposals on the eco-scheme will not work unless there is a serious engagement with farm organisations on the practicalities of what’s been proposed. “There are two elements to the non-productive area piece which are that farmers will have a compulsory 4% under the EU regulations and if they want to use it to qualify for an eco-scheme payment, they will have to achieve another 3 or 4% non-productive area.

“In theory many farmers would choose the option, but not if it is totally impractical or too costly.  The Department needs to listen to the representatives of the farmers that will actually be expected to implement this. 

“We need proper impact analysis of this. We are told that on average, tillage farms have 5% non-productive area but there is no statistic yet for grassland farms. We must guard against the misleading nature of averages. We need a lot more nuanced analysis. How many farms are already above the 4% and how many have no hope of meeting it? How does this vary by county and even within parishes? Supposing for example that the average for West Clare was 10% and the average for East Clare was 2%, the county average would be 6% which would look ok. But the reality would be that a lot of farmers in East Clare would be in serious difficulty.

“The problem is that environmentalists think that more is better. This isn’t true in reality because if the target is unattainable for many, then we will simply drive farmers to adopt GPS fertiliser spreaders instead. So instead of farmers doing some measures to allocate land to non-productive features, we will instead see CAP funding increased sales of imported machinery. Worse, the reality is that a farm which is already using low levels of fertiliser will not deliver a whole lot by switching to marginally more accurate fertiliser spreaders which require bigger, fuel thirsty tractors. In the end, the saving on smaller, less intensive farms might be a few buckets of fertiliser.

“For the same reasons, we also need to debate whether the extensive farming and low-chemical fertiliser options in the eco-scheme are set at the right level. In principle, ICSA supports these options but if they are set at too low a level, they become self-defeating because medium extensive farmers are ruled out. So, it is vital that the Department starts engaging with the actual representatives of those who are actually expected to implement this.”