Category Archives: Farming

Department working on ‘more user friendly’ fodder application process – ICSA

Existing subsidy rules ‘difficult to navigate’

Farmers in need of fodder urged to submit Forage Budget form.

Sligo News File

ICSA has met with officials from the Department of Agriculture in Backweston today (7 March) to discuss on-going issues surrounding the Fodder Transport Support Measure launched by Minister Creed in late January.

Following the meeting, ICSA Connaught/Ulster VP Jim Harrison said, “ICSA has received an assurance from the Department that elements of the scheme will now be revisited with a view to making the scheme more user friendly.”

ICSA Cavan chairman Hugh Farrell added, “It has become blatantly apparent that the scheme is difficult to navigate as has been evidenced in the low take up to date. This goes against the whole spirit of the scheme which was initiated to help those in dire need. This message has now been taken on board by the Department who will assess where changes can be made in order to make the scheme more workable.”

Concluding, Mr Farrell said he would urge all farmers in need of fodder to complete a Forage Budget form through their local Teagasc office or FAS approved advisor. Anyone requiring assistance in sourcing fodder can also contact their local ICSA representatives or contact ICSA directly on 057 8662120.

ICSA urges farmers to get tough on beef price

‘Look for higher prices from factories.’

‘Winter finishers have endured long hard winter and prices available this spring have been totally inadequate to cover the costs involved.’

Sligo News File

Farmers are being urged ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has called on farmers to look for higher beef prices this week from factories.

Edmund Graham, chair, ICSA Beef Committee

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham said, “Supermarket shelves are empty and factories will be under pressure to get beef moving to supermarket distribution centres.”

Factory supplies, he said, “are low following the bad weather and farmers with numbers of cattle are in a strong position to get a price above the typical quotes available over the past few weeks.

“The reality is that winter finishers have endured a long hard winter and the prices available this spring have been totally inadequate to cover the costs involved. The empty supermarket shelves show that farmers are the vital link in the food chain and it is timely to demand a price that reflects the importance of the job we do.

“Consumers who take cheap food for granted need to realise that they are only ever a few days away from a food scarcity panic and that the supermarket model of squeezing the farmer is barely sustainable,” he said

Fianna Fail mounts pressure on Minister to underpin future of suckler farmers

‘Unanimously supported Dáil motion powers up case for €200 cow grant.’

Sligo News File

Fianna Fail is battling for a better payment deal for suckler farmers.


Eamon Scanlon, TD

The party is demanding that the Minister for Agriculture introduce a payment of €200 per suckler cow and review “departmental underspends across Rural Development Programme

Deputy Eamon Scanlon spoke during a debate on Wednesday night when he reminded the Minister that “farmers in the North West are the engine that drives the beef industry in this country. We produce the calves that are fed for beef and are the basis for the country’s €2.5bn beef export sector.

Conditions farmers in the suckler industry are facing have, he said, “deteriorated steadily in recent years and have now reached a point where many are finding it extremely difficult to remain viable.

“They need help, specifically a suckler grant of at least €200, if they are to survive, he said.

Fianna Fáil, he said, “has been arguing for this kind of payment for years while Fine Gael continues to turn a blind eye.

“Farmers in the region are put to the pin of their collar. They cannot go dairying because the land is so scattered. The suckler cow sector is the most sustainable, if the supports are provided.”

The average income from the industry is €13,000, he said. “Farmers depend fully on CAP supports to maintain their livelihoods.

“Not only do we need to see the €200 payment per sucker cow introduced, we also need the Minister to fight the farmers’ corner in the next round of CAP negotiations to ensure that payments are not reduced,”

“Our motion also recognises the serious underspend across RDP projects. The Minister must now establish a review to look at how that money can be used to support vulnerable sectors including the suckler cow industry.”

Adding that the motion was “unanimously supported in the Dáil,” he said the Minister now needed to recognise this “and follow through with action.”

Minister says no plans to amend ‘anomaly’ in farmer State pension scheme

‘Farmers denied €200 disregard in the non-contributory means test.’

‘Changes to the current means testing arrangements…would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.’

Sligo News File.

Regina Doherty, the Fine Gael Minister for Social Protection, has ruled out acting on “an anomaly where farmers on reaching pension age do not receive the benefit of the earnings disregard of €200 in the means test for the State non-contributory pension.

Regina Doherty, Minister for Social Protection.

Replying to a written parliamentary question on the issue from Sligo – Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry, Doherty said that currently there were no plans to amend the means assessment for the non-contributory State Pension scheme.

She said:

“The State pension (non-contributory) is a means-tested payment and the weekly rate payable is dependent on the means of each claimant. Account is taken in the means test of the value of the property (other than the family home) and capital the person may have as well as cash income such as earnings from employment or self-employment, occupational pensions, foreign social security pensions and so on.

“These arrangements apply to all claimants for the State pension (non-contributory) as well as other means-tested welfare schemes. The rules applying to the State pension (non-contributory) do not prohibit individuals engaging in any form of self-employment; it is the means available from the net profit from such self-employment (after allowing for expenses) which determines the rate of pension payable, if any.

“It should be noted that the means assessment allows for “any expenses necessarily incurred in carrying on any form of self-employment..”. There is no exhaustive list of all expenses allowed in self-employed cases, since expenses vary with the nature and extent of the self-employment.

“The main allowable expenses in most instances are as set out in the means guidelines available on the Departmental website.

“It should also be noted that the first €30 per week means (from any

Marc MacSharry TD

source including self-employment) is disregarded for State pension (non-contributory) purposes, and that this amount is doubled in the case of a couple.

“Furthermore, a farmer in receipt of the State Pension (non-contributory) can also benefit from the disregard that exists for certain farm payments administered by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, such as the Agri-Environment Options Scheme. The first €2,540 of this and similar payments is fully disregarded, with 50% of the remainder assessed as means.

“Where a claimant for the State pension (non-contributory) is in employment, a weekly earnings disregard of €200 per week applies. This disregard is intended to facilitate non-contributory pensioners who wish to continue working, or to re-enter the workforce.

“There are currently no plans to amend the means assessment for the State Pension (non-contributory) scheme. Any such changes to the current means testing arrangements for self-employed pensioners generally would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.”

ICSA – Growing alarm over ‘soundings’ on post 2020 CAP

‘Maintaining the budget has to be an absolute priority.’

Sligo News File.

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said he is alarmed at soundings coming from Brussels that a reduced CAP budget post 2020 could be on the cards.

President of the ICSA Patrick Kent

“Maintaining the CAP budget has to be an absolute priority and I would urge Minister Creed, Taoiseach Varadkar and Commissioner Hogan to vigorously oppose any such move.”

A list of options set out in an EU Commission budget document published earlier today suggested that savings to the overall EU budget to tune of €60bn could be made if the CAP budget was reduced by 15%. This figures rises to €120bn in savings with a 30% cut to CAP spending.

The ICSA Chief said he was horrified that a reduced CAP budget would even be contemplated, given the challenges facing the agriculture sector.

“ICSA has been calling for an increase to the CAP budget to meet those challenges. The pressure is on with Brexit uncertainty, international trade deals and an increasing onus on farmers with regard to climate change. It is unconscionable that any cut in CAP payments could even be considered.”

National Planning Framework – the view from An Taisce

‘Decline in many Irish towns caused in part by the building of one off houses in the open countryside.’

‘NPF must advocate a decisive shift away from current polluting and carbon-intensive agriculture.’

‘New relocalised vision for rural Ireland focused on historic network of rural towns and villages essential.’

Sligo News File.

The draft National Planning Framework (NPF), says An Taisce, aims to identify the best way to accommodate a million more people in Ireland by 2040, as well as catering for the existing ageing population in a world facing increased climate change impact and biodiversity loss.


The An Taisce press statement states:

The time for people to make submission has past but shortly after publication there have been endless newspaper reports, mainly in regional newspapers, of local politicians who are highly critical of the essential theme of the plan.

The central proposition of the plan is that the country cannot afford to pay for the necessary physical and social infrastructure for modern society everywhere. Choices have to be made and the facts tell us that it is most efficient to service compact settlements above a certain size of around 10,000 inhabitants and primarily in 5 cities. Smaller settlements should not grow by more than around 15% in the next 20 years – a figure not so different from the original intention of the previous National Spatial Strategy that
was never implemented.

In contrast to this outpouring of disdain, An Taisce strongly supports these principles, which we have promoted in many previous submissions. Scattering people thinly cross the country brings with it many problems:

Social isolation the difficulty in finding sites for critical infrastructure and renewable energy projects that don’t fit well close to where people live it is a lost opportunity to develop strong villages and towns which can provide the range of amenities that we all seem to seek these days as well as a critical mass of population that modern businesses, both local and international, need to thrive. We only need to see many small towns failing and main streets half closed to recognize that they lack the population within easy reach that they need to survive.


Rather than being a ‘crazy attack’ on rural Ireland as portrayed in the local press, this is rural Ireland’s only hope for survival. The draft NPF endorses the measures set out in the Action Plan for Rural Development. This provides a well-considered and appropriate focus on strengthening rural towns and villages which An Taisce fully endorses. Indeed, An Taisce has been a long-standing, but ignored, advocate for our rural towns and villages as linchpins for the rural economy and society.

The decline that has occurred in many Irish towns has been caused in part by the building of one off houses in the open countryside, which has been seen as a cost effective option for people. However, dispersed housing externalises very significant hidden costs to society at large. If the true costs were accounted for, settlement in isolated locations would be generally unaffordable for households. An Taisce supports the proposals that seek to improve the alternatives for house buyers, for example by providing
serviced sites in the villages and other land reforms.

An Taisce supports the integration of the National Investment Plan with the NPF plan to ensure that communities are not encouraged to grow by zoning land for housing and employment without the necessary funding to fully support their needs. This happened in the past couple of decades when we nearly doubled our housing stock and has led to more and more people needing to commute to work and amenities absorbing precious personal time for home and family, producing congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. (even electric cars won’t remedy all that!)


There are many objectives that An Taisce support throughout the draft plan, which is clearly informed by contemporary thinking on urban and rural design. This mainly stems from the need to create walkable communities with access to work and living. This facilitates a healthy lifestyle, reducing obesity and good physical and mental well being; it reduces the reliance on private motor transport and facilitates the option of public transport. The policy objective of building on brownfield sites, even public purchase of underused sites, is surely obvious to stop the sprawl.

But…and there’s always a ‘but’, that is not to say that An Taisce is happy with the plan. The chief concern is that it will not work. The primary goals are incomplete (not even mentioning the Sustainable Development Goals [1]). Apart from the population, regional distribution and urban location targets, only a small number of the remaining objectives contain specific targets and there are no mitigation measures to deal with negative impacts of the proposals. In particular it will not produce a country that can function within the planetary boundaries that must constrain growth to the resources available. Neither will it prevent seriously damaging the mainstay of our economy and society – that is a healthy environment, full of biodiversity, clean air and water. Nor will lead to the required reduction of carbon emissions that will ultimately be our downfall if not STOPPED.

“Realising our Sustainable Future” sets out nine National Policy objectives embracing the circular and bio-economy, sprawl, carbon footprint, renewable energy and green infrastructure in the preparation of land use plans. None of these objectives contain any specific percentage-based or timetabled targets. All are phrased as vague general objectives to “support” “promote” or “improve”, or in the case of climate to “reduce our carbon footprint”.

An Taisce’s submission [2] goes through all the key goals and objectives pointing out the inconsistencies with current government policy and proposing policies and planning measures for the creation of alternative kinds of places.

A recurring theme in An Taisce’s submission is the need to create walkable communities and so no new housing development should be allowed if it is greater than 15- minute walking distance from basic services and infrastructure 
 e.g. public transport, supermarket, childcare facilities, school, post offices, etc. The corollary to this is the need to adopt national targets for the major percentage of new housing and employment locations to be located with walkable access to public transport and safe cycling and walking

All new buildings must be either ‘energy positive’ or ‘Zero Energy’; but even more importantly, a rapid programme of deep retrofit (to near zero energy) of the existing national building stock must be activated without delay.

Naturally An Taisce is also concerned that the draft NPF contains no national policy objectives in relation to our cultural heritage, including architectural and archaeological heritage, and landscape. Historic Urban Centres are an irreplaceably social and cultural focus of identity and economic resources, which should not be compromised by high rise or other inappropriate development. 
High density is not synonymous with high rise.

An Taisce’s prescribed status also includes a special brief to review and comment on planning applications that may impact on the natural environment, that is areas that are designated as special protection areas for their value in safeguarding biodiversity etc. Biodiversity and natural heritage are not given the status of any specific National Policy Objective or National Strategic Outcome measure in the Draft NPF. This is a major omission and An Taisce calls for it to be redressed.

Similarly current agricultural practices are known to be a major source of water pollution. Yet the current annual cattle herd increase of 6% per annum is being accommodated by the planning system in granting permission for additional animal housing and poor enforcement control of wetland drainage. The overlapping impact of slurry and fertilizer run-off is affecting water quality. The conflict between the provisions for “Ongoing Support through a well-funded Common Agricultural Policy for the Agri flood sector” and meeting climate and biodiversity targets as well as food security is not addressed. The draft NPF must advocate a decisive shift away from current polluting and carbon-intensive agriculture and settlement patterns towards a new relocalised vision for rural Ireland focused on our historic network of rural towns and villages.

Inevitably there is still much to be done to ensure we reduce our reliance on private motor transport if we are to make any headway in reducing our carbon emissions but this plan isn’t going to be the driver of that outcome! There is no target of reducing per capita car ownership or use, or increase in modal share of interregional passenger /bus use, or rail freight. Without targets the fine words can come to nothing and indeed there are worrying objectives regarding ‘connectivity’ and the indication that this will mean
new roads. An Taisce’s proposals are different. All further road investment must be limited to locations where urban and village bypassing and enhanced safety provision is required and the interregional rail network should be maximized in capacity for passenger and freight use, including travel speed enhancement.

Perhaps more controversial is An Taisce’s claim that airport capacity targets must be revised in accordance with climate emissions capacity limits whilst initiating Ireland-UK co-operation of development of low carbon sail/rail connectivity capacity and maximizing the potential of rail freight connectivity to ports, including reopening of Foynes Limerick 
freight rail line. 
Controversial perhaps but sooner rather than later we will have reduce the amount of flying, particularly of frequent fliers who make up the bulk of demand, if we are to live within the planets capacity to provide the resources needed and to reduce the damage we are doing to the climate.

Finally we quote in brief directly from An Taisce’s submission:

The challenges of climate change cannot be addressed through technology alone, but require thoroughgoing societal change and the implementation of robust, proactive planning measures for the creation of alternative kinds of places. As a strategy which aims to shape Ireland well into the 21st Century, it is essential, therefore, that the entire worldview sustaining the Draft NPF vision be critically re-thought, along the lines of the following key principles:

Equity: Rather than the promotion of economic growth as the primary aim and aspiration of Ireland 2040, An Taisce argues for the creation of a better society through a planning and land system that spreads public goods to meet societal needs.

Localisation: a core NPF objective should be that no new housing development shall be permissible which is greater than 15- minute walking distance from basic services and infrastructure.

Pragmatism: We must be pragmatic and realise that our current settlement patterns are ‘locked in’ and represent ‘facts on the ground’. Instead of redirecting scarce resources towards achieving implausible regional population targets, the focus of the Draft NPF should therefore be the adaptation task and retrofitting our inherited and widely dispersed settlement structures to make them more resilient and adaptive

Land Reform: In the absence of a firm political commitment to national planning, the market produces the places in which we live, in ways which meet a concern for individualism and profit rather than the needs of society. Land reform is therefore essential to give the public and communities a stake in development and future value. To acquire land to meet public need, Land Value Tax, CPOs and other powers must be used as levers to transfer ownership from private landowners and developers who will not build, to communities, local authorities and other accountable bodies who will.

Decarbonising Infrastructure: The Draft NPF is replete with contradictory objectives which, on the one hand, advocate the decarbonisation of society but, on the other hand, promote the development of airports, motorways, data centres etc., which are carbon and energy intensive infrastructures.

A New Rurality: The current policy approach to Ireland’s rural areas is productivism, either in large- scale agri-business or suburbanised housing. Ireland’s low population density and rural areas can be our most precious resource for a post-carbon world in terms of sustainable local food production, native forestry, and decentralised energy generation through, for example, small-scale wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal, combined heat and power, and solar. If planned correctly, this opportunity could be a significant boon for rural communities, help increase their resilience and buffer them from the vulnerabilities of global uncertainty and energy price inflation.

For a plan to be something we intend to do, it requires clearly stated, implementable and legally enforceable targets to meet these objectives with commensurate mitigation targets. If the draft NPF does not proceed on this basis, it could be exposed to legal action at national and EU level.

(Press release circulated by An Taisce, November 2017)

ICSA calls on Minister to intervene on the Clean Lifestock Policy as Kepak suspends lamb processing

Kepak decision ‘proves policy cannot work in its current format.’

Sligo News File.

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has called on agriculture Minister Michael Creed to intervene following “news that Kepak has suspended processing of lamb due to difficulties surrounding the Clean Livestock Policy for sheep.

Commenting on the Kepak decision he said, “ICSA has spent the last number of weeks highlighting that this policy cannot work in its current format. Today’s shutdown …unfortunately proves this point.”

At this point, he said, “nothing short of an intervention from Minister Michael Creed will suffice. This is an absolute disaster for our important sheep export sector.

“We can’t blame Kepak because it is clear that what has been going on in recent days is total gridlock which no business could sustain.

“This move…must be taken seriously and CLP will have to be have to be modified without delay.”

ICSA calls for restrictions on access to Fodder Transport Scheme to be lifted

Farmers urged to submit forage budget farm through Teagasc.

‘Department needs to reconsider the overly restrictive parameters of the scheme and open it up to any farmer who needs fodder.’

‘Those of us in the border counties can’t wait any longer.’

Sligo News File.

The ICSA is urging farmers to complete a forage budget form through Teagasc or FAS approved advisor in order for the Fodder Transport Scheme to be fully activated in fodder affected counties.



Commenting following a meeting with Teagasc staff in Longford on Friday, Cavan ICSA chairman Hugh Farrell said that for regions or whole counties to access the scheme, “local Teagasc officials have to be satisfied that adequate fodder is not available locally and must be transported in from another part of the country.

“The only way they can be satisfied of this need is through farmers completing a Forage Budget form in sufficient numbers.”

“This means that farmers who wish to access the scheme are prohibited from doing so if enough of their county neighbours haven’t also expressed a need.

“Essentially, farmers are operating in the dark with regards to this scheme as it will not be activated in an area until a magic, undisclosed number has been reached,” he said.

ICSA Sligo chairman Gabriel Gilmartin added, “ICSA believes that this goes against the whole spirit of the scheme which was to help farmers in dire need and to prevent animal welfare issues down the line.

“The Department needs to reconsider the overly restrictive parameters of the scheme and open it up to any farmer who needs fodder.” This was echoed by Jim Harrison, ICSA
Connacht/Ulster Vice president, who said there was no reason for the scheme not to be fully operational.

“Those of us in the border counties can’t wait any longer.”