Proposals to cut maximum area would undermine the viability of GLAS for many farmers. 

Sligo News File Online
ICSA rural development chairman Billy Gray is strongly opposing any downgrading of the Low Input Permanent Pasture measure in

Billy Gray, chairman,  ICSA National Rural Development Committee.
Billy Gray, chairman,
ICSA National Rural Development Committee.

the latest round of GLAS.  Mr Gray said that this measure was absolutely vital for low income cattle and sheep farmers and proposals to cut the maximum area from 10ha to 5 ha would undermine the viability of GLAS for many farmers. 

He said;

“The GLAS scheme was always a poor replacement for REPS.  There seems to be no appreciation that an environmental scheme will not deliver for the environment if it does not deliver for farmers.  As is increasingly clear, farmers are expected to work for nothing.   The Low Input Permanent Pasture was one element which did not cost farmers significant cash investments and so it attracted low income cattle and sheep farmers.  While it is clear that the Minister wants to maximise participation of commonage and natura farmers, he is very mistaken if he thinks that the way to achieve this is to completely discourage lowland farmers with no designated ground from participating at all.” 

The rural development chairman also said that as many farmers as possible should be facilitated to enter the scheme in the next tranche.  

“The ultimate objective is to get 50,000 farmers into the scheme.  At this point, there should be no impediment to farmers getting into the scheme given that the first tranche will be less than 27,000.  We have to ensure that the overall Rural Development Programme fund of some €4.1 billion is exploited to the full and that all matching funding from the exchequer is used.   We have already seen a delay in getting the Knowledge Transfer Schemes off the ground and it is vital that every cent of much needed funds gets to hard pressed farmers, especially in the cattle and sheep sectors, as quickly as possible.”

Mr. Gray was also highly critical of the decision to remove hedge planting from Glas. Noting that while the measure did not offer any financial gain to farmers, he said “hedgerows are of vital benefit to biodiversity and also are an essential part of the landscape. We need to plant hedgerows on an ongoing basis as older hedgerows have a finite lifespan.”



Fianna Fail and Fine Gael refuse to reduce tax on Sligo family homes

Sligo tax now one of the highest in the State

Sligo News File Online.

Yet again Fianna Fail and Fine Gael members of Sligo County Council have stood shoulder to shoulder to strike one of the
highest rates of property tax in the entire country.

While many local councils are slashing the brutal levy on people’s homes, 11 members of the Sligo council voted to oblige householders who elected them to the body to suffer the unremitting burden of the massive tax on their homes

Fianna Fail member Rosaleen O’Grady has tried to justify the decision to reject a cut in the rate proposed and pressed for by Cllrs. Declan Bree (Independent) Thomas Healy (Sinn Fein) and Gino O’Boyle (People Before Profit). They had sought a reduction of 15% in the charge. Defending Fianna Fail’s decision to retain the rate at among the topmost in the state, O’Grady said they would have loved to be able to reduce the tax but were not in a position to do so
as it would affect the provision of council services.

This is the second year in a row that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have united to keep the tax at its current appallingly high level, last year the excuse they offered for doing so was much the same as that trotted out today.

One of those present, and reported to have also supported the retention of the present tax rate, was Eamon Scanlon, a Fianna
Fail candidate in the forthcoming general election.

The decision to reject the proposed reduction in the property tax burden on local families was also reportedly supported by
Independent Councillor, Marie Casserley. She, too, is a declared general election candidate campaigning for a seat in the Dail.

Sean MacManus (Sinn Fein) and Fianna Fail’s Martin Baker and Paul Taylor were absent from the meeting.

Michael Clarke, the West Sligo-based Independent councillor abstained when the vote was taken. Many will wonder why, seeing
the impact the tax is having on local householders.

Today’s decision leaves families in Sligo now saddled with yearly taxes or charges amounting to €3,000 or more. They include the property tax, waste collection charges, water charges, carbon levies on domestic commodities, including coal, gas, electricity, diesel, petrol, levies on home and car insurance and much, much more.

Councillors receive a raft of payments for their part-time work – representational allowances, expenses, payments for service on
committees, attendance at conferences, workshops, and so on. A number of Councillors are full-time salaried employees, some
are owners of businesses, landholdings and other operations. Very few are engaged in council-connected work on full-time basis.

Going by the support for the property tax shown by Sligo councillors today, it is hard not to imagine that the tax will be retained and possibly substantially increased if either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail form the next government. The tax on family homes was initially included in the Memorandum of Understanding agreed between the previous Fianna Fail-led government and the Troika, and later rolled
out by the present Fine Gael-Labour Coalition




‘Vitally important that Ireland retains its green clean status’

‘We have managed perfectly well without GM crops so far and any change in our GM free status would be highly risky’

Sligo News File Online

Patrick Kent, President. ICSA
Patrick Kent, President.

The president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association Patrick Kent has warned that Ireland must avoid being caught out of step with key EU competitors and markets who have decided to avail of the EU opt-out  clause regarding the growing of GM crops.

He said;

“The clean green image, encapsulated in the Origin Green strategy, will be undermined if we ever permit the growing of GM crops while competitors such as Northern Ireland and Scotland ban them.   We also have to be very cognisant of the fact that key EU markets such as Germany, Italy and France are taking the view that growing GM crops is not in line with consumer sentiment and accordingly, are also taking a no GM planting approach.

“It will be extremely difficult to develop the clean, green, grass fed image while being out of step with a tide of EU countries that clearly do not see growing GM crops as being synonymous with natural farming systems.  The risk here is that if we don’t take the same approach as Northern Ireland, Scotland, Italy, France and Germany that our Origin Green strategy will lose all credibility among EU consumers.” 

The call comes due to the impending change in EU law on October 3rd 2015, whereby EU member states must write to the European Commission to opt out of automatic authorisations for the growing of GM crops. The opt-out covers the eight varieties of maize currently permitted or set to be permitted at EU level. Opting out means there would be a full ban on the cultivating of these GM crops.

GMO Free Regions
GMO Free Regions

“It is vitally important that Ireland retains its green clean status. We cannot risk being compared unfavourably with our European competitors in this matter, particularly as beef and lamb exports are proportionately much more important in economic terms to us whereas growing GM maize crops would be of very dubious benefit anyway.  We have managed perfectly well without GM crops so far and any change in our GM free status would be highly risky.”

The threat GMOs pose to human health is highlighted in an article by Jessica Linder and Robert Verkerk PhD published on the website of the Alliance for Natural Health Europe.

They write:

“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are ‘organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in such a way that does not occur naturally.’

GMOs are often promoted by governments and the biotechnology industry, as the best solution to feeding the world’s 9 billion population by 2050 and protecting the environment.  We are promised that the genetic modification of food is safe, will increase crop yields, reduce pesticide use, solve problems caused by climate change and – the big, emotionally-charged one — alleviate world hunger. If all of these claims were true, why is it that European public and farmers continue to reject GMOs?

“Who said there’s consensus?

“Proponents of GMOs proclaim that their offerings are perfectly safe and that there is no evidence of any associated environmental or health hazards. However, there is a large and growing body of peer-reviewed articles that cast serious doubt on this presumption. There is also emerging and disturbing evidence that the world’s number one weedkiller, glyphosate (RoundUp®), along with adjuvants added to the formulation, is highly disruptive. The use of glyphosate globally is intimately linked to herbicide-tolerant GM crops, which now make up over 60% of all GM crops planted, and over 70% of the world soya crop.

“As often claimed by the pro-GM lobby, there is consensus among scientists that GM crops are safe both to the environment and humans. It of course depends which scientists you ask. Over 300 leading scientists, physicians, academics and other relevant experts in Europe alone, strenuously reject the claims that there is scientific consensus on the safety of GM crops. 

“A further 400 scientists from 60 countries working as part of IAASTD under the auspices of five United Nations agencies, the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility over 5 years, evaluated the best way of ensuring global food security in the face of climate change. They chose to reject GMOs, supporting instead community-based, agroecological farming approaches that reduced dependence on international biotech, seed and agrochemical companies.

“Adding to these resonating chimes from European and international scientists, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has also reported that,”Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GM) food”, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.

“The precautionary paradox

“These broad concerns warrant, in our view, application of the precautionary principle (PP), an issue that has been subject to fierce debate. Legally, the PP is built into the fabric of EU food law, however, it’s vagueness can be widely interpreted and it has yet to result in a moratorium on outdoor cultivation, one we believe to be justified.

“In a recent modelling analysis on the applicability of the PP to nuclear energy and GM crops, by a group of risk management scientists from the USA, France and UK, the authors argued that the PP should be applied in relation to GM crops and their cultivation limited. By contrast, they found inadequate justification to limit nuclear energy, even in the wake of Fukushima.

“Yield, more or less

“Another common argument in favour of GMOs is that it is the most important technology to ensure higher yields required to feed 9 billion by 20150. However, according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US entitled Failure to Yield, genetic engineering has failed to consistently increase crop yields. The report shows that despite huge efforts and expenses on the part of the biotech industry, “No currently available transgenic varieties enhance the intrinsic yield of any crops”. Intrinsic yield increases were seen in some major crops during the twentieth century, however these have been associated largely with improvements in conventional breeding techniques, rather than through GM technology.

“Pesticides, more or less

“Proponents also like to claim that GM crops will reduce the need for herbicides and pesticides. This is another inaccurate claim, since the introduction of GM crops has actually led to a significant increase in the use of pesticides, especially herbicides. This is problematic not only because of the harmful impact these chemicals have on humans and ecosystems, but also because increased use of pesticides cause pests and weeds to develop resistance. This legacy of GM crops, and the creation of ‘superweeds’ and ‘superpests’, has led to additional increases in pesticide input, with consequent risk to the environment and humans.

“Climate-friendly GM?

“GM crop protagonists often advocate their use to reduce climate change. The argument is that GM crops can be adapted to extreme weather conditions, such as extreme droughts for example. The evidence for this working is very limited. Most of the work on drought tolerance and yield increases comes from conventional plant breeding, not GM.

“World hunger

“This is the emotional button that the biotech companies, their associations and the governments pushing GM love pushing most. It appeals to our hearts, and we must remember is has nothing to do with GM foods on our own plates. It has a lot do with the dismantling of tried and tested, highly diverse, sustainable, agroecological systems in the so-called developing world, and replacing them with low-diversity monocultures with GM ‘staples’ like soya, maize and rice.

“But it’s food security in the developing world and the notion that GMOs might be some kind of a silver bullet that can resolve the anticipated world hunger crisis that’s really being heralded by the pro-GM camp.

“But it’s just not that simple, and there have yet to be any silver bullets for highly complex social, political and environmental issues of this nature, many of which harp back to problems initiated during the colonial era.

“Let’s a look at a few of the issues. As already established above, GMOs do not produce consistently higher yields, and therefore there will not be more food around as a result of GM crops. Also, the majority of GMOs produced are either for animal feed or biofuels, rather than for human food consumption. Additionally, the cause of hunger is not a lack of food, but a lack of access to food. Hunger is a result of poverty, food distribution and inequality. If the goal was to actually end world hunger, there are other, more viable, low-cost methods. As was found from a 5-year IAASTD study mentioned above which plugged agroecological farming as having the greatest potential to feed our expanding population on a warming planet with limited resources. Organic, low-input, small-scale agriculture is increasingly threatened by agribusiness and GM crops, yet is actually the best means of feeding the world – while maintaining food security and sovereignty for the majority.

“Absence of evidence vs evidence of absence

“Pro-GMO advocates, including the editors of influential magazines like Scientific American, often continue to dismiss concerns about GMOs as unscientific and an obstacle to progress. This is born out by the narrow-focus and self-interest of the pro-GM lobby, that is unable to differentiate between what it sees as an absence of evidence, which is interpreted as evidence of absence. Neither, of course reflect reality, given the scientifically plausible basis for concerns about GMOs. There are also robustly-proven alternatives that are also dismissed, in particular the most widely practiced, yet most threatened agriculture today:

“agroecological farming.

“It is both arrogant and insulting to the public’s intelligence to continue to claim that public resistance to GM crops and foods is unreasonable, or based on ignorance or even paranoia. It is equally unreasonable to not respect the desire among many to regain sovereignty over their food supply.”

€96m for Taoiseach’s constituency, €30m over 6 years for rest of country. Where’s the fairness in that?-MacSharry

‘Government has ignored, neglected and slashed services to rural Ireland’

Sligo News File Online

Senator Marc MacSharry, Fianna Fail.
Senator Marc MacSharry,
Fianna Fail.

Fianna Fáil Senator Marc MacSharry has slammed the recently announced Government plan for rural towns as “nothing more than a very bad election stunt.”

He said:

“The plan is an insult to communities in rural Ireland who have suffered significant cutbacks under Fine Gael and Labour.

“There seems to be no let-up in the blatant disregard that Fine Gael and Labour have for the value of rural communities.

“This announcement is nothing short of a disgrace and clearly underpins the Governments contempt for communities in our region.

The Sligo-based general election candidate said that following the litany of local broken promises to the people of Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal after the 2011 election Fine Gael & Labour were adding “insult to injury with a pitiful €30m over the next 6 years for the entire country.

“To put this into perspective, the Government have made no less that €96m available through different projects to the Taoiseach’s own constituency over the last year. However it seems the rest of the country is only entitled to a third of that over the entire lifetime of the next government! Where’s the fairness in that?

“The government has ignored, neglected and slashed services to rural Ireland. It closed 139 Garda stations, slashed LEADER funding, eroded the post office network and stalled the roll out of rural broadband. It has crucified small farmers with unworkable schemes. It has done nothing for small businesses struggling with the burden of commercial rates.

“Just last year the Government cut Leader funding by millions from counties in the north west and now offer a paltry €30m for the whole country in an attempt to cover up the damage they have been doing. Fine Gael and Labour have no policy on rural Ireland. PR stunts and photo calls are no substitute for honouring our heritage and properly supporting rural communities.

“The Government must provide sufficient resources to our rural and region towns and villages to empower them to perform to their potential. It is only with such a strategic approach that we can prevent further rural decline and the desolation of the culture and heritage of regional Ireland,” he said

Gerry Adams, TD, Leader, Sinn Fein
Gerry Adams, TD,
Leader, Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein Leader, Gerry Adams, who described the allocation as “derisory and insufficient to meet the needs of rural dwellers and communities,” said the government announcement of the €6 million a year rural funding was “pure PR spin.

“It’s enough to buy a media headline but is meaningless in making a difference to rural Ireland.”

He said;

“Rural communities and small farmers have borne the brunt of bad government policy for almost five years, including the policy of forced emigration. Given that 70% of our citizens live in rural Ireland the government needs to rural proof its decisions and provide proper investment.

“Government policy has forced the closure of garda stations, leaving citizens and communities vulnerable to crime; schools have been closed and most towns and villages are blighted with boarded up shops.

“Following a focussed dialogue with rural Ireland involving thousands of people Sinn Féin produced a detailed report outlining measures we would take to rejuvenate rural Ireland and build sustainable communities.

“These include:
•Regenerating rural towns
•Keeping open post offices, libraries, garda stations and other public services
•Addressing the business rates
•Prioritising the roll out of high speed broadband.”

Other issues affecting the rural Ireland must also be addressed, he said, “including rural equality, additional supports for dairy farmers, opposition to TTIP and all-Ireland labelling.”

€1.85 per hectare ANCS payment to farmers

Scheme ‘focussed on ensuring continued use of agricultural lands…’

Sligo News File Online

Tony McLoughlin, TD, Fine Gael, Sligo-Leitrim
Tony McLoughlin, TD,
Fine Gael, Sligo-Leitrim

Sligo-Leitrim TD, Tony McLoughlin has welcomed the release of payments to farmers under the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme, formerly known as the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.

Farmers in Sligo-Leitrim will receive about €1.85 per hectare per week, which is roughly equal in value to the price of a sliced pan.

The allocation to the 4,243 farmers amounts in total to €8,765,425, and is being made as incomes in the dairy sector, beef and sheep plummet to one of the lowest levels on record.

Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, who just last April reportedly stated that the industry would see a surge in milk farming and the creation of 5,000 rural jobs as a result of an anticipated economic boom, is upbeat about the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme.

Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, TD.
Minister for Agriculture,
Simon Coveney, TD.

Launching it, he said the provision for 2015 was focussed on “ensuring the continued use of agricultural lands, the maintaining of the countryside, the protection of the environment and promotion of sustainable farming system.”

He also noted that post 2018, a new delineation using physical characteristics will be carried out, which for Ireland will be:

Soil Moisture Balance (trafficability)
Soil Drainage;
Soil rooting and Depth;
Soil Texture;
Organic Matter.

Deputy McLoughlin said “Fine Gael’s top priority is to secure the economic recovery.

“We have a clear plan to build a strong economy generating the resources to invest in the services that people depend on and part of this plan includes driving the agri-food sector forward.”

The ANCS rate for the achievement of all of this looks set to stay at €1.85 per hectare per week.




Will Fianna Fail and Fine Gael block cut in rate again this year?

Sligo News File Online

Five days time will see members of Sligo County Council assemble to decide the level of tax to be imposed on the homes of families in the county.

Local Property TaxThe draconian tax arises out of a Memorandum of Understanding  agreed between the last Fianna Fail-led government and the Troika. No family is exempted, be they the sick, the elderly, the impoverished struggling to keep a roof over their head. All are obliged to pay irrespective of whether they can afford to or not. And to ensure no family escapes the tax on their home, the current Fine Gael – Labour Coalition has granted the Revenue Commissioners the power to screw it out of pensions, welfare payments, wages, salaries, farm payments. No mercy is shown as the Coalition goes about hitting the worst off in society; they are being clobbered thanks in no small measure to Fianna Fail that cleared the way for the oppressive tax in the first place.

When the issue came up at a meeting of the County Council last year, there was a proposal on the table to reduce the rate by 15%. It would have been a small concession to families driven to distraction in trying to  find the money for all the taxes, all the charges, all the levies that have been dropped on the country in the years since 2011. But Fianna Fail and Fine Gael Councillors resolved to deny any relief whatsoever from the tax to local householders, they went ahead  and bulldozed the proposed small reduction in the property tax straight off the table.

Now Councillors are meeting again on 28 September to examine the tax; they have the power to reduce it, as reduce it they should and must, if there’s to be any fair play at all shown to the people who elected them to the Council. It is regularly questioned why any family in the county should be be compelled to meet debts over which they were given no say in whatsoever. Sligo is already indebted to the tune of more than €120 million, not counting the mega costs of the case taken in the High and Supreme courts by the owners of Lissadell after the Council moved in relation to rights of way over the north Sligo historic estate. There’s also a current recommendation to make what would amount to a €2 million contribution to ease the multi-million euro debt of the airport at Knock, again without the people being given any formal right to ask why.


Meanwhile, Dublin City Council has cut the property tax on homes of city families by 15%. “This is a small step on the road to complete abolition of the local property tax, which is Sinn Féin’s policy should we be elected to government,” a spokesman for Sinn Fein said this evening.




Government leaves thousands ‘out in the cold’ in national reserve allocation

Sligo News File Online.

Patrick Kent, President. ICSA
Patrick Kent, President.

ICSA president Patrick Kent has insisted that the Minister must revisit the issue of young farmers who do not qualify for an allocation from the national reserve at present owing to their date of commencing farming. 

This group, commonly referred to as the Forgotten Farmers, were left out of the official allocation for young farmers and the national reserve fund. It is estimated that some 3,900 young farmers now find themselves in this position.

“This is a matter of rectifying an injustice.   The case for helping young farmers who started in the past five years is not in question.  However, young farmers who are farming longer but who were not up and running in 2002, have been left out in the cold.”

Earlier in the summer, ICSA brought the issue to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, where Mr. Kent outlined the case for the young farmers.  Among the delegation was ICSA member Kenneth O’Brien who established the Forgotten Farmers’ group.  Mr. O’Brien made a very telling contribution to the debate by outlining case histories of farmers affected by the flaw in the National Reserve.  As a result of the ICSA presentation, the Oireachtas Committee voted to fully back their cause and it has called for them to be eligible for equal treatment under the National Reserve.     However, Minister Coveney has since said that there are no funds to help them. 

ICSA Roscommon chairman, Ger Grehan has said that this cannot be the end of the matter. He has called on all politicians of every persuasion to come out and state their support publicly, in order to put maximum pressure on Minister Coveney and the Government.

“This is an injustice that cannot be left to fester,” declared Mr Grehan. 

ICSA is to continue to seek a solution for young farmers in this position.  According to the ICSA president, Patrick Kent, the maximum possible cost would be an allocation of €12 million.  However, he suggested that in practice a much lower sum would probably suffice as some farmers will not be eligible due to other criteria and some will have already some level of entitlements which just require topping up.  



ICSA President insists cattle and sheep farmers must be included in EU €14 million funds share out

‘Issues such as the Russian ban impacting on the meat trade as well as the dairy markets’

Sligo News File Online

Patrick Kent, President. ICSA
Patrick Kent, President.

ICSA president Patrick Kent has reiterated his call for cattle and sheep farmers to get a share of the emergency funds agreed by Brussels.  Mr Kent pointed out that while much of the focus has been on dairying, the reality is that cattle and sheep farmers are still going to earn less in 2015 than dairy farmers and that issues such as the Russian ban are impacting on the meat trade as well as the dairy markets.

Reacting to news that Ireland is to receive just under €14 million from the EU fund, he said  “We cannot allow a situation where there is special treatment for dairy farmers when they have a sudden drop in income yet nothing was done last year for cattle farmers when prices fell.  Prices are still below the cost of production for cattle and sheep farmers and this must be reflected in the use of the extra funds.”