Category Archives: Farming

Going the extra mile for rural communities

Isolation, mental health issues, financial debt features of everyday life in rural Ireland.

Sligo News File.

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has spoken of the need for people to “go the extra mile for their communities” at a public meeting focusing on the issues of Rural Isolation and Mental Health held in Bridgetown, Co Clare.

Seamus Sherlock, Chairman, ICSA Rural Development

Following the well-attended meeting, organised by An Garda Síochána, Mr Sherlock said, “Isolation, mental health issues and financial debt are all features of everyday life in rural Ireland. Evenings like this offer communities the opportunity to come together and talk about these difficulties and lift the stigma surrounding them. Particularly now, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, we all need to make a special effort to keep our rural communities strong and inclusive.

“Many people find themselves living alone in isolated areas with little or no contact from the outside world with poor phone coverage and often non-existent broadband. It’s not hard to see why a culture of silence and keeping things to yourself has built up, but times have changed and the message has to be delivered to each and every single person that most of us are in the same boat in some way, shape or form and that support is available.

“This is particularly important when it comes to mental health and financial debt. As pressures mount people can freeze with panic which allows the confusion and fear to become all consuming. I must commend An Garda Síochána for continuing to roll out these vitally important community meetings and tackling these hard to talk about issues. Sgt Edel Burke Curtain in particular has been tireless in actively going out and visiting homes and encouraging people to attend, even those who would normally be wary of getting involved.

Concluding Mr Sherlock said, “The shadow cast by rural crime was also once again highlighted this evening. ICSA will continue to emphasise the need for more resources for community policing and we urge the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to take the necessary steps that would allow Gardaí spend more time out in the community rather than behind office desks.”

Other guest speakers on the night included Crime Prevention Officer Sgt Triona O’Rourke and Noreen Murphy, the founder of Lisheen House Suicide Prevention in West Cork.

Farmers must weigh calves and their mothers at cost of €50 to qualify for €40 subsidy – McGrath

‘The Minister’s treatment of farmers is farcical.’

Sligo News File

There were strong exchanges in the Dail when last weekend a South of Ireland Deputy challenged agriculture Minister Michael Creed over his handling of the fodder crisis.

Mattie McGrath, TD …farmers must spend €50 to get €40 subsidy.

TD Mattie McGrath spoke of conditions in “Tipperary, east Waterford, south Kilkenny and east Cork, as well as other parts of the country” where he said farmers were “completely burned by the drought.”

He said: “The Minister has made no real effort to address this.

“I would love to know what inducements he is giving to stakeholders to come up with the figures he has given us. The situation on the ground is very different and many farmers have huge issues with not having enough fodder and no way of getting funding. The banks effectively are not working and the money announced in last year’s budget was not drawn down, while this year’s budget was a damp squib for agriculture.

“Suckler herds are on their knees and farmers in that sector wanted €200 per cow, but the Minister gave them €40, but one must weigh calves and their mothers, meaning the farmers must spend €50 to get €40. The Minister’s treatment of farmers is farcical.”

Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture.

Creed: “The Deputy should reflect seriously on the accusation he has made against Teagasc to the effect that it has manipulated figures. It conducted a national fodder survey, the veracity of which has been accepted by all stakeholders. I accept that within the national deficit of 11%; there are individual holdings where it is higher. The best outcome from the stakeholder forum was the advice from the advisory services, namely, Teagasc, private advisers or co-operatives. The Deputy should reflect on his charge that a State organisation has manipulated figures.”

McGrath: “It has questions to answer.”

Creed: “The Deputy is seeking a cheap headline. It is rather unfortunate to try to make a cheap political point on the backs of farmers, who have had an extremely difficult year.”

McGrath: “The farmers have sleepless nights. Certain others do not.”

Creed: “It is a hit-and-run effort by Deputy Mattie McGrath. He will not even stay for the rest of Question Time.”

McGrath: “The Minister does not even run or hit.”

ICSA protest over beef prices at Mayo’s Dawn Meats in Ballyhaunis

‘Unless prices improve further disruption cannot be ruled out.’

Sligo News File.

The ICSA have taken their protest over beef prices to the door of Dawn Meats in Ballyhaunis just weeks after similar demonstration outside ABP in Clones.

Edmund Graham, chairman, ICSA Beef Committee

Commenting on the move, chairman of the Association’s national beef committee Edmund Graham said beef sector producers “have been crucified by beef price cuts” in a year when substantial extra costs were incurred owing to extreme weather conditions.

He said farmers had faced “an orchestrated effort to drive down beef prices over several weeks,” but the price cutting had now stopped since the ICSA took action against the practice on the 5th of October.

Explaining the reason for the ongoing protest, he said the association “now want to drive price back up and no farmer should dream of selling steers this week at less than €3.85.

“Current prices are totally inadequate when costs of production are at least €4.40/kg for cattle from the dairy herd, he said. The suckler herd is not profitable unless the price is closer to €5/kg.

President of the Association, Patrick Kent said the ICSA was sending a very clear message to retailers that beef farmers were being exploited.

Patrick Kent, president ICSA

“There will be no hiding place for retailers now who claim they are supporting farmers. Retailers cannot boast about sustainable beef and then profiteer when farmers are not even getting the cost of production.

“Retailers and processors need to wake up to the fact that there will be no sustainable beef if they continue to squeeze the primary producer.

“ICSA is calling for a halt to the exploitation of family farms.”

He also hit out at the failure of new international markets to deliver strong prices for farmers.

“Compared to five years ago we have seen the opening of markets in the USA, China, South East Asia and this week Kuwait. Yet there has been no benefit to farmers and prices today are weaker than five years ago.”

“ICSA is sending out a strong message that farmers cannot stand idly by as their livelihoods are being decimated. This is the second day of action and unless prices improve further disruption cannot be ruled out,” he warned.

Brexit loan package for farmers still not released a year after the announcement of the scheme, says Scanlon.

‘Minister Creed appears to be completely oblivious of the difficulties facing small family farmers.’

Sligo News File

Fianna Fail spokesman on business Eamon Scanlon has said that the government still hasn’t rolled out the Brexit loan scheme for farmers announced in the budget a year ago.

Fianna Fail spokesman on business Eamon Scanlon,TD

Speaking of the pressure being faced by small family farmers, the Sligo-Leitrim TD said: “Costs have risen, sterling price fluctuations have increased uncertainty, we have had fodder shortages and there are real fears about what the winter ahead could hold.

“All of these issues are further complicated by Brexit, which is now less than six months away.”

More measures are needed to support family farms in the face of sustained price volatility and the impending impact of Brexit,” he said.

The suckler cow scheme announced in the Budget does not go as far as we would like, it is a starting point. “I am hopeful that this payment can be increased in the coming months.

“The additional €23m in ANC funding will also provide a welcome relief to farmers in the North West, but we need to ensure the full restoration of the fund in the next budget.

“I am, however, concerned about the Minister’s handling of Brexit preparations – or lack thereof. In Budget 2018 he announced a €25m Brexit loan scheme for farmers. We’re still waiting for that scheme to open. Minister Creed appears to be completely oblivious to the difficulties facing small family farmers in the west of Ireland. The reality is that without the adequate supports, they will not survive.”

Adding that he wants to see the Minister take control of the situation and deliver the supports promised more than 12 months ago, he warned “any further delays could prove disastrous for our farming communities.”

ICSA Budget Reaction: ‘payment for weighing calves a good move’

Welcome for full restoration of the ANC payment which was slashed during the downturn.

Sligo News File

ICSA president Patrick Kent has welcomed the €40 for weighing calves announced in today’s budget. “ICSA asked Minister Creed for this in 2016 as a means of making the BDGP more accurate and rewarding farmers for putting real information into the ICBF database. An accurate calf weight is a real measure of how a cow is performing because it captures genetic potential for growth as well as milk.”

Patrick Kent, president ICSA…mixed reaction to budget

Mr Kent also welcomed the full restoration of the ANC payment which was slashed during the downturn. “This has been a real loss of income to our most disadvantaged farmers and it is high time it was restored.”

Stock reliefs

He also welcomed the extension of stock reliefs for another three years and the three year extension of stamp duty exemption for young farmers.

However, Mr Kent was more critical of other taxation measures. “The minor level of improvement on earned income tax credits and on the Category A thresholds for Capital Acquisitions Tax represent at best a begrudging admission that they are worthwhile and at worst a rowing back of the ambition set out in previous budgets. The earned income tax credit was only increased by €200 to €1,350 as happened last year as well.

Inequality

“But the various reports on taxation have highlighted that there is a serious inequality with PAYE workers who qualify for a credit of €1,650. When Minister Noonan began the process of rectifying this blatant unfairness for self-employed workers it was indicated that it would be done over three budgets with an increase of €550 each time. We are now looking at this process being dragged out over seven years. There is no justification for this.

“Similarly, the increase in the Group A threshold for CAT covering gifts and inheritances has to be seen in the context that the thresholds were cut severely in the past and that there is an acceptance that the current level exposes many people to heavy tax burdens on taking over the family business.”

Mr Kent said that many farmers would be amazed at the substantial increase in afforestation money compared to what is being directed at livestock farming. “There is a serious question over blanket sitka spruce plantations both in terms of climate change and impact on rural communities.”

Diesel fuels rural economy

However, Mr Kent welcomed no increase in carbon taxes on fuel which he said did nothing to change behaviour for rural motorists who no option except to use diesel for transport.

“Diesel fuels the rural economy and there is no realistic alternative for agricultural machinery or for haulage of inputs and outputs in rural areas.”

Meat factories cutting price in one of the worst ever years for beef producers

‘Beyond belief meat industry would seek to increase profits on the backs of farmers.’

‘Time for…fight back.

‘Meat industry cannot be allowed to drive farmers out of business.’

Sligo News File.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association has protested outside ABP over what they have denounced as “an orchestrated effort” by meat factories to drive down prices being paid to beef farmers.

“Farmers in the beef sector have been crucified by beef price cuts in a year when they have substantial extra costs due to extreme weather,” said the chairman of the association’s national beef committee chairman Edmund Graham.

He said: “It is beyond belief that in a year like this when farmers are on their knees with extra cost arising from a fodder crisis that the meat industry would seek to increase profits on the back of farmers.

Orchestrated effort to drive down price

Referring to what he described as “an orchestrated effort to drive down price at a rate of 5c/kg/week,”, he said “the current price of €3.70/kg is totally inadequate when costs

of production are at least €4.40/kg for cattle from the dairy herd. Meanwhile, the suckler herd is not profitable unless price is closer to €5/kg.”

Declaring it was time for farmers to fight back, he said: “We cannot go on working for nothing and risking substantial capital finishing cattle especially as we enter the expensive winter finishing period.”

He also hit out at the failure of new international markets to deliver strong prices for the farming sector. “Compared to five years ago we have seen the opening of markets in the USA, China, South East Asia and this week Kuwait. Yet there has been no benefit to farmers and prices today are weaker than five years ago.

“Meat factories and retailers love to talk about sustainable systems of beef production. ICSA believes that unless cattle farmer incomes are economically sustainable, all the rest is just pie in the sky.

Meat factories using their own feedlots to manipulate price

“The meat industry cannot be allowed drive farmers out of business. ICSA believes it is an unacceptable element of the sector that meat factories are using their own feedlots to manipulate price. The price cutting is also a way of subduing store cattle price with a view to getting cheaper cattle for their own feedlots.

“ICSA is sending out a strong message that farmers cannot stand idly by as their livelihoods are being decimated.

“Further action cannot be ruled out,” he warned.

Merger of Lakeland and LacPatrick would make operation second largest dairy co-operative in Ireland

Shareholders to vote on move at the end of the month.

Sligo News File

Lakeland and LacPatrick dairies are about to merge, according to BBC Northern Ireland.

It’s reported that the move is being backed by the boards of both co-operatives with the proposal now set to be placed before shareholders for a vote at the end of
the month.

A final decision will be subject to regulatory approval.

The proposed new co-operative would trade under the name Lakeland Dairies.

Billion euro turnover

If approved, the merger, says the broadcaster, would make the operation Ireland’s second largest dairy co-operative, with a supplier base of more than 3,000 dairy farmers, and a combined annual turnover of over €1 billion.

According to a report by Shannonside FM News, former president of the ICMSA Pat O’Rourke has meanwhile stated that he believes the proposed merger makes perfect sense. O’Rourke, says the report, also believes that it’s only a matter of time before Aurivo and Lakeland will merge.

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association protest over beef prices at ABP Clones

‘Factories have refused to engage in a meaningful way at the roundtable.’

Sligo News File.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association is to mount a major protest at ABP in Clones, Co. Monaghan, as processors continue to hammer beef farmers with price cuts.

Edmund Graham, chair, ICSA Beef Committee

A notice issued by the Association states that the protest is being staged at ABP commencing at 7am tomorrow, Friday, 5 October.

Chairman of ICSA beef committee Edmund Graham said the Association did not attend the Beef Forum early this week “owing to the lack of solidarity shown by processors to beef producers.

‘Farmers are on their knees’

“Never has this lack of solidarity been more evident than in the last few weeks.

“Farmers are on their knees, anger is mounting and factories have refused to engage with us in a meaningful way at the roundtable,” he added.