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Government needs to understand that food and energy security are now seriously at stake in Ireland and across the EU: Kelleher

‘Farmers cannot continue to supply food at current prices in the face of runaway inflation in inputs like fuel, fertiliser, and feed’

Sligo News File 

Dermot Kelleher, president, Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher said that the government needs to understand that food and energy security are now seriously at stake in Ireland and across the EU. Following last night’s meeting between the three ministers in the Department of Agriculture and the farm organisations, Mr Kelleher emphasised that farmers cannot continue to supply food at current prices in the face of runaway inflation in inputs like fuel, fertiliser, and feed.

“ICSA strongly argued that agricultural diesel would have to be supported as much as auto diesel. This morning’s announcement on a 15-20c/L cut on auto fuels but just 2c/L for green diesel is a red rag to a bull for farmers. Some people who drive to work can work from home, but you can’t work from home if you are cutting silage. The Minister for Agriculture must now immediately get a solution in talks with the Minister for Finance for a real solution on the green diesel price. We also argued for a voucher to help lower-income small and medium-sized farmers buy fertiliser.

“It is simply untenable to expect farmers to keep producing food with rapidly escalating costs. We have spent the last few years fighting very hard to keep European food security as a central objective in the CAP but too many so-called experts in Brussels were too complacent and wanted to create a CAP that was actively trying to reduce food production.

“We also argued strongly that now is the time to deliver an ambitious action plan to ramp up renewable energy production in the EU. We need a roadmap to help farmers to deliver a massive increase in biogas, biofuel, and solar energy. This means no more sitting on the fence at bureaucratic level and it means a stable pricing environment at a viable price over a ten-year period to make such investments feasible.

“The reality is that the Ukraine tragedy is very much linked to Europe’s reckless dependency on Russian gas and oil, which has made the EU members very weak in taming Putin’s expansionist strategy. The frustrating thing is that there is massive potential for farmers to deliver much more renewable energy, which is also positive on the climate agenda, as well as helping rural communities. It would also help farmers to ride out input cost spikes if they had other income streams alongside food production.

“The farm organisations were very frustrated that there seemed to be a lack of ideas at government level, judging by last night’s meeting, and although we welcome the immediate setting up of a food security committee, it is now urgent that the government bring forward concrete proposals to help counteract rocketing costs.”

Three arrested for questioning following burglary in Skreen

Elderly resident suffered serious injuries in attack at his home

Sligo News File

Arrests have been made following a burglary at the home of an elderly resident in Skreen.

Three persons are being held for questioning in connection with the incident.

Tom Niland, 73, suffered head and upper body injuries when he was attacked at his residence in January. He is still in a serious condition on a ventilator at University Hospital Sligo.


‘…no point trying to reinvent the wheel if the basics are not right…’

Dermot Kelleher, president. Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has said that “there is no point trying to reinvent the wheel if the basics are not right, in relation to Department plans to ramp up crop production in response to the Ukraine-Russia war. We need to focus on fuel and fertiliser costs before talking about increasing crop production.” Mr Kelleher was speaking in advance of the meeting between the main farm bodies and Minister McConalogue, scheduled to take place tomorrow, Tues 8 March.

“Before any plans are hatched to substantially increase crop production, we need to make sure that adequate supplies of grass and silage are maintained. This is not straightforward due to the catastrophic increase in fertiliser and fuel costs. Many cattle and sheep farmers are going to struggle to make the normal quantities of silage unless something is done about escalating costs. That is why ICSA is proposing a fertiliser voucher of €2,000, as a subsidy to buy up to €4,000 worth of fertiliser. This is targeted at lower income cattle and sheep farms who are not getting help from either dairy co-ops or banks.

“However, more will have to be done. It makes no sense to talk about growing more crops with the escalating cost of fuel. ICSA believes that a rebate on green diesel to significantly reduce its cost will be essential even for normal grassland operations such as silage. Eliminating VAT on green diesel is not a panacea because it is charged at the lower 13% rate and because most agri-contractors, and some farmers can reclaim it anyway.

“ICSA agrees that we need to grow more grain in Ireland. However, it is not a simple matter of waving a magic wand. Unless the government comes forward with substantial proposals on fuel and fertiliser it is a waste of time. Even then, there are substantial problems including the lack of grain storage, the availability of extra tillage contracting capacity and basic tillage skills are non-existent on a lot of grass farms.

“ICSA believes that the current crisis is a real wake-up call for EU and national decision makers. For years, we have talked about two critical issues – the need for food security and the need to enable EU farmers to ramp up renewable energy production. Unfortunately, both of these have been side-lined by the out of touch EU Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies. In particular, we have to re-examine the CAP focus on lowering production which will turn out disastrous given what is going on in Ukraine.”


‘It cannot be emphasised strongly enough that ICSA and others warned the Minister and his officials at the very outset that the scheme was unworkable’

Sligo News File

Edmund Graham, chairman ICSA Beef Committee

ICSA Beef chair Edmund Graham has said the final figures for the BEAM scheme show what a spectacular mess was made of devising a scheme that was meant to help farmers in deep difficulty. “It is a stunning indictment of the Department that a scheme that was meant to deliver €100 million to farmers has ended up delivering about €60 million. Lessons must be learned from this.

“It cannot be emphasised strongly enough that ICSA and others warned the Minister and his officials at the very outset that the scheme was unworkable. It all went wrong when officials accepted unworkable conditionality in the EU regulations for a scheme that was specifically tailored for Ireland.

“Lessons must be learned. This fad for conditionality is creeping in more and more and it must be tackled head on. Either there is a case to help farmers or there isn’t. In the case of BEAM, farmers had suffered a serious price collapse due to Brexit disruption which was not their fault. The EU and the Department of Public Expenditure both accepted that there was a case to help farmers in trouble and accordingly allocated €100 million.

“The initial application process showed that farmers foresaw difficulties with the scheme as their applications were for about €78 million. However, the final results show that about 11,000 of the 33,00 applicants will be subjected to clawbacks, and some 95% of those will lose the full payment.

“This is shocking stuff. ICSA has been contacted by members who are now in deep difficulty. In some cases, the immediate clawback of €10,000 is causing serious cash flow stresses. It is very wrong that to add insult to injury, these farmers are being threatened with punitive interest charges. ICSA is insisting that farmers should not be charged interest especially given that Irish government bonds are at close to zero rates.

“However, the big lesson that must be taken from this is that the Department must engage in a meaningful way at an early stage with farm representatives when designing schemes, in order to iron out problems. Unfortunately, the trend in recent years has been to present schemes as a done deal far too late in the process.

In addition, the Department has allowed Brussels to impose its views, even though it is evident that the EU has increasingly taken an idealistic view in relation to policy which is divorced from reality on the ground. This must be challenged, and it is particularly relevant to the CAP plan. We need our Minister to do much more to engage with farm representatives and to stand up to EU bureaucrats.” 


‘If a farmer deems that it is not appropriate for horses and hounds to pass through their land on a particular date, then those wishes should be respected’

Sligo News File

Dermot Kelleher, president. Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has called on all hunts to respect the wishes of farmers when it comes to accessing their lands. “There can be all sorts of reasons why a farmer may not want a hunt to cross their farm. So, if a farmer deems that that it is not appropriate for horses and hounds to pass through their land on a particular date, then those wishes should be respected,” he said.

According to Horse Sport Ireland there are over 30,000 mounted hunt followers and 300 hunt clubs in every corner of the country. Hunting constitutes the largest equestrian activity in Ireland during the hunting season which runs from October to March.

Mr Kelleher said, “It is now the busiest time of year on most farms with sheep lambing, and cows calving. Many farmers are on duty 24 hours a day and it is unacceptable that a farmer should receive a text message informing them that a hunt will cross their farm the following day, and to make sure their cattle are in, and their sheep are out of the way. That’s just not good enough.

“The time for getting farmers’ consent is when these events are being planned and routes are being decided. And if you do not have the explicit consent of the farmer, then you must choose an alternative route.

“Working farms are not playgrounds; livestock can be dangerous, and they can equally be panicked by the appearance of a fast-moving hunt and excitable hounds. In the interest of fostering good relationships with local farmers I would urge all clubs to seek consent well in advance of any hunt taking place and to respect the decision of any farmer who says they cannot accommodate a hunt during these busy times.”

Elderly victim of ‘vicious and cowardly’ attack by masked men at his West Sligo home now on life support

He was removed to University Hospital Sligo with ‘serious’ injuries to his head and body

Sligo News File

Gardai in Sligo have condemned the attack on an elderly man at Skreen as “vicious and cowardly.”

Tom Niland, 73, a bachelor was severely beaten when three masked men entered his home where he lives alone at Doonfin, close to the N59, on January 18th.
A small sum of money was taken.

He was removed to University Hospital, Sligo, with injuries to his head and body described by gardai as serious. It’s understood that his condition has since deteriorated and he is now on life support.

Gardaí set up checkpoints and house-to-house inquiries were carried out following the attack.  The scene of the crime has been examined by the Garda Technical Bureau and CCTV footage inspected.

A garda liaison officer has been appointed to the victim’s family while the incident is being investigated.



Closure of Sligo’s B Braun plant at Collooney

Loss of more than 80 jobs

Sligo News File

The B Braun manufacturing site at Collooney is reportedly set to be wound down over the next 18 months with the loss of 80 jobs to the county Sligo town.

A key player in the State’s health sector, it is involved in providing care, services and products throughout the country. The company is part of the B Braun global group, which has been operating in Ireland for more than 40 years.





‘Reports are coming in of a very heavy-handed cut-off point of €135.00/hd being imposed on carcase weights of 25kg and over’

Sligo News File

Sean McNamara, Chairman, ICSA Sheep Sector Committee

ICSA sheep chairman Sean McNamara has said farmers should not accept any less than €7.00/kg for hoggets over the coming weeks. “Factories are doing everything in their power to chip away at prices so we must do everything in our power to resist them,” he said.

“As sheep farmers our cost of production is upwards of €7.00/kg and rising all the time, so we are only demanding what is fair. It is imperative that we hold the line at €7.00/kg at the very minimum. We know the demand is there when we see factory agents heading to the marts and buying up all around them, with heavy ewe lambs in particular making €10-€15/hd more than they are making in the factories.

“We must remember all this happening as factories continue to bring in truckloads of live lambs – as well as lamb in carcase form – from the north and elsewhere. This is an on-going practice and can only be described as a cynical attempt to weaken the negotiating position of local suppliers. This is what we are up against, and this is why we all must hold firm on prices when selling our stock that we have worked so hard to produce.”

Mr McNamara was also critical of factories heavily penalising carcases of 25kg and above. “Reports are coming in of a very heavy-handed cut-off point of €135.00/hd being imposed on carcase weights of 25kg and over. At €7.00/kg these lambs should be hitting the €161.00 mark with a 23kg weight limit. That is a €26.00 hit that no sheep farmer can afford. Anyone with heavier lambs would be well advised to go to the mart instead.”


‘A recent change to rules allowing farmers to buy in cattle has been complicated by the addition of extra paperwork and possible additional testing requirements, in respect of animals being moved in’ 

Sligo News File

Hugh Farrell, Chairman ICSA Animal Health & Welfare Committee

 ICSA Animal Health and Welfare chairman Hugh Farrell has said that “ICSA is opposing the imposition of pre or post movement testing in relation to TB restricted farmers buying in cattle for further feeding until we have certainty that the Department will pay for these tests.”  

Continuing Mr Farrell said, “For several years, farmers who do not have feedlot status have been prevented from buying in cattle while restricted, until such time as they have a clear test. However, with a lot of pressure, a recent change to rules has allowed farmers to buy in cattle. Unfortunately, this has been complicated by the addition of extra paperwork and possible additional testing requirements, in respect of animals being moved in. 

“ICSA believes that no farmer should sign up to a pre or post movement test until the Department agrees to pay for it. We are also concerned about all sorts of additional bureaucratic requirements that are making life difficult for farmers who want to buy in stock for finishing. For example, farmers are being asked to provide complicated documentation of where badger sets are located along with detailed maps.

“ICSA stands by the principle that a farmer should only be required to pay for one annual test per annum. This issue of preventing people buying in cattle has long been a contentious issue. ICSA has fought hard to support farmers who need to buy in finishing cattle, and who do not have feedlot status. A farmer who depends on buying in cattle at exactly the right time (depending on availability of grass or fodder, price considerations, length of keep etc) is hugely disadvantaged if they cannot buy in. We have made some progress to get this accepted in principle, but the problem is that we see the Department coming up with bureaucratic barriers to prevent it happening in practice. No one should be entitled to deprive anyone from earning a living.” 

Mr Farrell expressed frustration that the TB Forum process was making very slow progress in relation to this and other TB issues. “I fought very hard to get this issue resolved at this week’s TB Implementation Committee. We haven’t had a TB Finance Committee meeting in months due to operational issues. ICSA understands that this is now resolved, and we will fight very hard that new measures cannot be agreed until outstanding financial issues are resolved in tandem.”


‘Wilful misrepresentation of the actual research’

Sligo News File

Dermot Kelleher, president. Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has slammed moves by the EU to block funding for red meat promotion as a wilful misrepresentation of the actual research. “The EU seems to be blaming red meat consumption for increased cancer risk whereas the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report on behalf of the World Health Organisation (WHO) only found a marginal increased risk in the case of processed meats. It could not find sound evidence regarding unprocessed red meats.

“It is important to note that the research actually suggests that additives and processes such as smoking meat are likely the issue in the case of processed meats. Even then, a substantial consumption of processed meat every day only led to a 1% higher lifetime risk. One problem with a lot of epidemiological studies is that it is difficult to single out meat eating when other factors such as obesity or smoking and alcohol consumption apply.

“The reality is that the EU is taking a very ideological position on red meat that is not supported by incontrovertible evidence. A balanced diet with a focus on reducing or eliminating ultra-processed foods is still likely to be a better strategy. It is worrisome that the EU appears to be supporting highly processed plant burgers over real meat. Apart from the fact that it is not based on robust evidence, it is distorting fair competition and actually undermining highly nutritious food produced by EU livestock farmers.

“The question that I am asking is whether the member state governments have sanctioned this and what position did Ireland take? This comes on top of the EU Nutriscore proposals which is a highly contentious and potentially reckless effort to reduce assessment of food to a traffic light score card.  ICSA has already spoken at major EU conferences, including the Global Food Forum (organised by Farm Europe) in November, against the use of the Nutriscore. The Nutriscore is based on algorithms that almost nobody understands, and as a result highly processed junk food can end up being scored as better than nutritious beef or lamb.

“We need a lot more transparency around who is making these decisions and what lobbying is being carried out by big food corporations. Moreover, the investment by big international investors in plant-based food needs to be carefully examined. The risk is that health and climate change are being hi-jacked as a way of generating returns for billionaire investors. While we cannot stop consumer choice, the EU should not be used as a vehicle to assist these investments generate bigger returns based on flimsy research assessment.  It is all too easy for big corporations to generate a level of hysteria to suit their own interests, but the EU should not be a party to this.”

Death of man following Mayo road collision

Others injured in crash

Sligo News File

Gardai are investigating following a Mayo road collision in which a man in his 30s was fatally injured. He is understood to have been a passenger in one of the vehicles involved in the accident on the N60 between Breaffy and Castlebar at about 5.50 pm last evening.

A number of others were injured. It’s believed the injuries are not life-threatening.

The road will remain closed overnight.

Israel preparing to administer fourth Covid vaccine

Surge in Omicron cases

Sligo News File

Israel is preparing to lead with a FOURTH dose of the coronavirus vaccine

According to reports, Israeli authorities will administer the vaccine to people 60 and over in a bid to arrest the surge in outbreaks of Omicron infections in the country.

The decision follows the death of a patient there from the Omicron variant.

More than 10,000 cases of the Omicron virus have occurred in the UK where health experts have warned of a potential wide scale of hospitalizations from the disease.

In Ireland, there has been a surge in cases of Omicron among people in the 16 to 34 age group. Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has said a substantial rise in infections would occur as the variant spreads across the country.



‘Conditionality attached to BEAM monies flawed’

 Sligo News File

Edmund Graham, chairman ICSA Beef Committee

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has said the conditionality attached to BEAM monies was so flawed that the Department of Agriculture must revisit every aspect of the scheme. “BEAM stands for Beef Exceptional Aid Measure; as the full title indicates it was exceptional aid – which was secured to help beef farmers who had suffered horrendous losses during the winter of 2018 and going in to 2019. It should have been distributed quickly and painlessly to those who needed it most. Instead, what we got is a scheme that will see perhaps over €19 million in penalties, or 25% of the money that was originally applied for,” he said.

“Due to the difficulties in meeting the conditionality targets set in BEAM, around 10,500 farmers deferred the period in which they needed to reduce the amount of bovine livestock manure nitrogen produced by 5%. Those farmers are now approaching their 31 December 2021 deadline for achieving this. However, figures from the Department of Agriculture indicate that 8,300 of these farmers are set to miss the target. This means that these 8,300 farmers face having to repay some or all of this exceptional aid in the new year.

“Farmers accept that conditionality is part and parcel of most schemes, in that you must meet certain requirements to get paid. That is fair enough, but aid money given to farmers in response to a crisis should never have been weighed down with conditionality that that was so cumbersome and difficult to achieve – mainly down to delays in getting accurate figures from the Department.

“It must also be remembered that BEAM was looked for and secured in 2019, but the timeframe to meet the targets coincided with the arrival of a global pandemic. Lockdowns, restrictions, and mart closures all had an impact on the day to day functioning of every farming enterprise. It also seriously impacted farmers’ ability to meet the BEAM requirements.

“Already we have had BEAM monies taken back from farmers who did not opt to defer and were unable to meet the target, and now the prospect of adding another 8,000 farmers to their number is looming. It is unconscionable that the Department will seek to recoup approximately €14.5m from hard pressed beef farmers come the spring. This is on top of €5.2 million already recouped from farmers who did not meet the original targets for the period ending 30 June 2021, and who did not defer. 

“So, we are looking at a situation where a scheme which was originally meant to deliver exceptional aid of €100 million, may actually end up delivering barely more than half the original target. By any key performance indicator, this is a disastrous outcome when the original objective was to deliver €100 million in badly needed aid to beef farmers.

“It is now incumbent on the Department of Agriculture to review BEAM in its entirety. A solution must be found that allows farmers to retain as much of this aid as possible.”

New rules as Covid infections hit record highs

More than 5,000 cases reported yesterday

Sligo News File

With no sign of a drop in outbreaks of the Covid virus and now the emergence of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of the disease, further restrictions on movement and trade seem inevitable.

According to health authorities, 5,124 cases were recorded in 24 hours yesterday.

Ryan, the Green minister is reportedly among the latest to test positive for the infectious condition.

Deaths worldwide number 5,370,270 to date.

Meanwhile, thousands have demonstrated against government-imposed restrictions in several EU and other states.