ICSA outlines key concerns to Minister Creed

Association highlights crucial changes required to the rural development programme.

Patrick Kent, President. ICSA
Patrick Kent, President.

ICSA president Patrick Kent and general secretary Eddie Punch met last week with the newly appointed Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

According to ICSA president Patrick Kent there was a constructive exchange of views on a range of issues including the new sheep scheme, making the BDGP more attractive, restoration of ANC (previously DAS) payments and the threats to the beef sector.

“ICSA set out key changes required to the rural development programme. All rural development schemes need to be more farmer friendly. We want to see a sheep scheme that works for sheep farmers with minimum red tape and cost. An important clarification is that the sheep scheme does not have to be all about climate change as is the BDGP and so there is scope for innovative ideas which are not necessarily about breeding efficiencies.

“ICSA also argued for optional extra payments under the BDGP for calf weighing. ICSA believes that while there might be scope to get more farmers into the scheme, we must ensure that we hold what we already have. ICSA believes additional top up payments on an optional basis would help secure the numbers already in the scheme which must be done before we look at trying to get new participants.

Eddie Punch, General Secretary, ICSA
Eddie Punch,
General Secretary,

“On GLAS, ICSA criticised the curtailing of the low input permanent pasture measure in the second tranche. Regarding ANC, ICSA welcomes the commitment to restore some of the ANC money to the tune of €25 million but we are insisting that the ambition must be a full reversal of cuts imposed by austerity. This would require somewhat over €60 million but it must be remembered that the scheme is vital to the more marginal farmers and it is the most efficient way of delivering an income boost to thousands of farmers hit by the original cuts.”

There was also a wide ranging discussion on the various trade talks with ICSA emphasising the need for ongoing vigilance against concessions on tariff rate quotas. “ICSA is pleased to see that tariff rate quotas for beef were not included in the exchange of offers between the EU and the Mercosur (South American) countries. ICSA’s recent protest was to demonstrate the anger of farmers and the threat to the Irish economy of trade deals which sacrifice beef and we underlined our concern to the Minister that the threat has not gone away.”

On direct payments, ICSA outlined the need for a more efficient way of dealing with farmers with delayed payments in 2016. The association also called for a full review of the national reserve pointing out that there were still young farmers left behind who started farming before 2008 . “However, ICSA also suggested that it was in nobody’s interest to allow allocations to be made on an ongoing basis to young farmers who have not completed their agricultural education. We also need to examine whether it is desirable to allocate entitlements on the basis of uncertain conacre arrangements which leave the young farmer very exposed.”

ICSA also raised the need for proper supports for hen harrier farmers in addition to the GLAS option which is totally insufficient as it is limited to 19 ha. “While the locally led schemes may be a help, a laissez faire approach to gradually developing plans is not acceptable for the hen harrier farmers who are left high and dry. ICSA also warned that there is a lot of uncertainty around land eligibility questions and while recent clarifications on designated ground are welcome, the proof will be in the inspections pudding.”

Dail to debate controversial water charges

Motion to abolish charges and water utility signed by almost 40 TDs.

Sligo News File Online

Sinn Fein logoMain opposition party Sinn Féin is to use Private members time this  week to table a motion to scrap Irish Water and end water charges.

The motion, signed by 39 TDs, will be launched tomorrow Monday the 23rd of May at 11:30 am on the plinth at Leinster House.

Right2water TDs present at the launch will include, Eoin Ó Broin for Sinn Féin, Richard Boyd Barret for the PBP, Independent Thomas Pringle, Paul Murphy for the AAA and Catherine Murphy for the Social Democrats.

The present Fianna Fail backed Fine Gael/Independent government rejected a demand for a vote on a motion abolishing water charges when the matter was previously raised in the Dail last month.

Fianna Fail backed Fine Gael-Independent Coalition pressed to open inquiry into alleged NAMA leaks

‘Extremely important that all of the transactions involving any of the assets which were the subject of leaks be examined’

Sligo News File Online

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

Newly elected Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry wants the Fianna Fail-backed Fine Gael/Independent Coalition to launch an investigation over concerns surrounding information allegedly leaked by the National Asset Management Agency about assets of the agency.

The Fianna Fail Deputy said:

“As I understand it, information in relation to approximately 800 Nama clients, including the identity of property assets, valuations of those assets and loan values, were leaked and may have been received by entities who ultimately bid and purchased those assets. For this reason it is essential in the public interest that the Government establishes a full independent investigation into the Nama leaks and their relationship, if any, to property sales.”

He added that “it is extremely important that all of the transactions involving any of the assets which were the subject of leaks be examined to see whether those who bought these assets had access to any information which may have given them an unfair advantage in the purchasing of these properties from Nama.”

Main opposition Sinn Fein calls for end to water metering

Dail main opposition party Sinn Fein has called on Irish Water to drop the controversial water metering programme.

Eoin O'Broin, TD, Sinn Fein
Eoin O’Broin, TD,
Sinn Fein

TD Eoin O’Broin, Sinn Fein spokesman on Water services, said his party and the other Right 2 Water TDs “will be tabling a private members motion in two weeks time calling for the abolition of water charges and Irish Water.

“As a majority of TDs in the 32nd Dáil campaigned to end water charges we expect this motion to be passed.

“If it fails to pass it will be because politicians who promised to oppose water charges during the election did not keep their word.”

Commenting on the metering programme, O’Broin said Sinn Fein has consistently argued that water meters “were the wrong use of €500 million

“We said this money should have been invested in fixing the water infrastructure which is the main source of water wastage.

The Minister responsible for water services, Simon Coveney, should he said, “contact Irish Water management and instruct them to stop their metering project.

“No more tax payers money should be wasted on this controversial scheme until the future of water and sanitation service delivery is clear.”

Main opposition party Sinn Fein hit out over delayed rural broadband service

Outgoing Fine Gael/Labour Coalition ‘disempowered’ rural communities.

Sligo News File Online.

The prospective main opposition party Sinn Fein has again hit out at the failure of the outgoing Fine Gael/Labour government to extend high-speed broadband to the countryside.

Party TD Carol Nolan said it was “unacceptable for the ongoing

Carol Nolan, TD, Sinn Fein.
Carol Nolan, TD,
Sinn Fein.

Government to talk about delays at this point when the people of rural Ireland had waited long enough for access to quality, high-speed internet access,” a development which would open up communities and business opportunities.

She said, “Under the Fine Gael/ Labour Government, local communities have been disempowered. Infrastructure has deteriorated as a result of severe cuts to regional and local budgets; affecting roads, broadband delivery and, most noticeably in recent times, flood protection.”

Sinn Fein, she said, “wants to make rural Ireland a sustainable place to live and work, where the quality of life is matched by the quality of public services; a place where young educated graduates have the opportunity to stay and build their future and a place that welcomes back emigrants, including those forced to leave over recent years.

“We will use the budget room available over the next five years to invest heavily in capital projects, to deliver tens of thousands of jobs and to fill infrastructural needs in water, housing, schools, health, broadband and transport. Our current spending will also create jobs in frontline services and act as a stimulus for job creation in the private sector.”

She said Sinn Fein will create a digital hub in Galway City through the provision of sufficient broadband levels and IDA/government incentives.

“This hub will become an economic driver in the West and could contribute to rebalancing economic regional economic development.

“It is imperative that we open up rural Ireland to the benefits that something as simple as quality, high-speed internet access can provide.

“While it may not be a panacea for the neglect of successive governments, it will at least give our communities and local businesses a fighting chance.”

A Deal on the formation of government has meanwhile been agreed with Fianna Fail undertaking to support a Fine Gael-led administration and promising to block any attempts by the opposition to derail the arrangement for the foreseeable future.

A further indication of the extent to which Fianna Fail propose to back Fine Gael is also to be seen in their recent comments on water charges where Fianna Fail has argued that those who have not paid bills must be pursued for payment as required by the laws enacted by the outgoing government.

Fianna Fail was the first to insist on the introduction of water charges when, in government, they entered an agreement with the Troika to both impose charges on all domestic users and establish Irish Water, a national utility they are now saying is not fit for purpose. The party also agreed to institute the widely criticised unfair and unjust property tax on the homes of families.

Focus on Aurivo butter processing in Ballaghaderreen.

Working Group still hoping to persuade the company to retain butter packing facility at Achonry.

Sligo News File Online.

Local interests are expecting a comment from Aurivo on its plans for Aurivothe company’s butter making operations in Ballaghaderreen.

The company has already announced that butter packing operations at its plant in Achonry are being relocated to Cork, a decision which is being strongly questioned by the Achonry Working Group. The move will have implications for the jobs of the 23 workers employed at the facility, as well as the economy of the area which has been savaged by, among other developments, the closure of State offices in Tubbercurry and the transfer of the staff to Mayo.

Aurivo recently closed its headquarters in the town and relocated

Former Aurivo Head office, Tubbercurry
Former Aurivo Head office, Tubbercurry

the staff to a new office block in the Finisklin Business Park in Sligo. In a further development, the company also shut the company’s thirty job milk processing plant at Barnashrahy on the outskirts of Sligo and transferred the operation, to Killygordon in Donegal.

Sligo News File understands that a primary concern at present is whether Aurivo proposes to permanently maintain its current full butter processing operations at Ballaghaderreen, or if the processing of any of the product lines is scheduled or likely to be transferred out to a new location.

Meanwhile, efforts are being made by the Achonry Working Group

Achonry Creamery circa 1963
Achonry Creamery circa 1963

to persuade Aurivo to re-consider its decision to relocate the butter facility from Achonry to the new Ornua – State Irish Dairy Board – plant in Mitchelstown.

They believe that given the gravity of the local employment situation, and the dependence of regional trade customers on local jobs Aurivo will be sympathetic to calls of the Working Group to retain the long established, award winning Connacht Gold butter facility and its jobs in Achonry.

It is reported that Aurivo operating profits last year fell by 55% to €3.03 million. The company is said to have put the drop down to a 2c/litre price support paid to producers following the slump in milk prices.

Aurivo Chief Executive Officer is Aaron Forde. He is also Chairman

Aaron Forde, CEO, Aurivo, and Chairman, Ornua
Aaron Forde, CEO,
Aurivo, and Chairman, Ornua

of the Ornua Board of Directors. The Ornua board also includes the Mayo-based President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, John Comer.

Under the announced new arrangement with Ornua, Aurivo will transport the cream for the making of Connacht Gold from the West of Ireland to the State-owned Ornua plant at Mitchelstown and then deliver the processed product back for storage at a depot in Sligo. This will involve a round trip of hundreds of miles – a process the Achonry Working Group has noted will incur significant financial and environmental costs.

Questions are also being raised as to the implications the new Ornua butter making and packing plant may have for the activities of co-operatives up and down the country. Ornua, a government-owned body, previously functioned solely as a sales and marketing agent for the co-operatives; now its new Kerrygold Park plant places it in direct competition with its members for the first time.

Concerns have also been voiced about an imminent cap on milk production, a move which could severely affect the future of many dairy farms in the west of the country in particular.

EUThe EU has already voiced support for cuts in milk production in a bid to reverse the plunge in prices following the move into the post quota free market.

Just over a month ago, Irish Creamery Milk Supplier Association president and director of Ornua, John Comer said the measure could have “potentially serious implications for Irish dairy farmers.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, he said: “Unfortunately for Irish farmers they have invested an awful lot of money in capital infrastructure and in stock, and they’re ready set go for production.

John Comer, President, ICMSA
John Comer, President,

“They’re now potentially being told they will have to cap that production.”

He said Irish farmers were currently receiving about 24c per litre produced, four cents short of the break-even cost.

Only last April, the government hailed the end of the three-decade milk production quota regime in the EU as “a great day for the rural Ireland.”

Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney told leaders of the dairy industry invited to join him in a dairy-filled breakfast at the Department of Agriculture that the end of the milk quota regime was the most important and exciting development for rural Ireland in a generation.

The Irish Independent reported that “a study by the Irish Farmers IFAAssociation estimated the ending of quotas would create 9,500 extra jobs in Ireland, and upwards of €1.3bn annual additional export revenue.”

The website of the ICMSA quoted Comer, its president, as saying that the ending of the era of milk quotas “represents an opportunity for the Irish agri-food industry and its wider rural economic foundation to take a massive step forward with confidence.”

Soon-to-be main Dail opposition party Sinn Fein has drawn up terms of reference for Water Commission

Party sending terms to expected new Fine Gael-Fianna Fail partners in minority government arrangement.

Sligo News File Online.

Sinn Fein logoThe prospective Dail main opposition party has published terms of reference for the commission being set up to examine public ownership issues surrounding Irish Water.

Sinn Fein has said they will send the terms to Fine Gael and Fianna Fail “with the recommendation that they be used for the commission that the two parties have agreed to form.”

Speaking from Leinster House, party TD David Cullinane said:

“Irish Water is a failed entity. It has no public support. Water charges have been given their marching orders from the voting public.

David Cullinane, TD, Sinn Fein
David Cullinane, TD,
Sinn Fein

“It is vitally important that any new body established to replace Irish Water has the full confidence of the public to manage and deliver our water and sewerage services and to fund and govern those services appropriately.

“Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have agreed to establish a commission on this and Sinn Féin is today publishing what we believe should be the terms of reference for that committee.

“In order for any new body to have full public confidence water charges must be gone and gone permanently.”

Terms of reference for Independent Commission on Irish water services

The aim of this Commission is to ensure that there is public trust and confidence in the arrangements for financing and delivering water and sewerage services for all citizens in this State.

To independently advise the Houses of the Oireachtas on the level of Exchequer funding required following the abolition of domestic charges and related options to finance the State water and sewerage services now and in the future.

To advise on the level of investment in our water and sewerage infrastructure needed to deliver quality water and sewage infrastructure in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

To bring forward an organisational model to replace Irish Water, which will be publicly owned protects the public interest and complies with EU standards.

The Independent Commission will consist of a chairperson and no less than 4 additional members and should as far as possible collectively reflect the following elements:

– Independence

– Expertise and knowledge within Ireland North or South, or International.

– Public administration

– Regulatory, operational/management and environmental expertise in utility;

– Economic and academic expertise;

– Workers rights and consumer interest expertise

Process would be completed and presented to the Oireachtas within 9 months of being established. It would have an independent secretariat.

The public ownership model options presented by the Commission to replace Irish Water would come before the Dáil and Seanad and be enshrined in legislation once agreed.