Category Archives: farming news

Beef on the Brink – ICSA president calls for Brexit intervention clarity

‘Market panic has already impacted the price of beef; we cannot allow this uncertainty to continue.’

Sligo News File.

ICSA national president Patrick Kent has said the Government must be forthcoming with details of the emergency aid it intends to seek for the beef sector from the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Patrick Kent, president ICSA

Mr Kent was addressing Minister Michael Creed and members of the ICSA National Executive at ICSA’s AGM and Annual Conference in Portlaoise on Thursday.

Beef on the Brink formed the theme of the conference and Mr Kent focused on the need for clarity on the nature and scope of the emergency aid that can be expected should a no-deal Brexit come to pass.

“Market panic has already impacted the price of beef and we cannot allow this uncertainty to continue. Farmers have been operating in a vacuum while factories have been taking advantage,” he said.

Beef Backstop

Mr Kent called on the Minister for a “backstop for beef.” He said ICSA supports the call for emergency EU measures to take out our surplus beef via intervention or aids to private storage but the lack of clarity is causing panic around what price beef will be in 2019.

“We need a commitment to put a realistic floor under the price of beef with a trigger price that ensures that current prices cannot be allowed to fall any further.”

Mr Kent said the days of supermarkets and processors exploiting farmers based on false costs of production must also end. A recent assessment of the cost of production per kg of beef shows the average cost to be in the range of €5 to €5.30. “These figures bring a sense of reality to the discussion by including a rate for the farmer’s labour.

“There is no other industry where the cost of production ignores basic labour costs and we will no longer countenance Teagasc pontificating on the cost of production unless they have included the cost of farmers’ own labour.”

Mr Kent also said that the time has come for a comprehensive review of the beef grid. “We want it simplified, more straightforward. When a farmer sends cattle to the factory, they need clarity, not confusion on what each beast will make. We want to see better bonuses for U grade cattle and this should be paid for by higher penalties on P grade cattle. All O grade cattle should qualify for QA bonus as should quality cows and young bulls, but not P grade cattle of any category.”

Prices Unviable

“An examination of the actual costs of production per kg of beef illustrates that buying P or O grade calves when beef price is at €3.75 for R grades is completely unviable. This is why we believe that the dairy expansion must be re-evaluated and the only rational conclusion for the beef sector is that we need to reduce production. We need to do this to cut costs and to make product scarcer and we need to keep going down the road of reducing production until price cuts are reversed.

“We also must do much more to help live exports. ICSA wants to see every effort made to assist live exporters. Huge state efforts have been put into supporting new markets for beef but there must be a full commitment to doing the same for live exports. We need to ensure that there is no red tape hindering the live export trade.

Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture

“We also need a strategy to market suckler beef as a premium niche product, grass-fed and distinct from grain fed feedlot beef. We cannot condone the Taoiseach of the country saying he is reducing his meat consumption on health or climate change grounds. These arguments are spurious and Ireland, as one of the world’s leading exporters of beef and a significant producer of lamb cannot allow this propaganda to go unchecked.

“At ICSA, we believe that CAP reform will have to reflect the fact that no livestock production system is profitable at the moment and for that reason, we need to return to the idea of extensification as a pillar of CAP payments. ICSA also supports capping payments with no loophole for employees on industrial farms because the CAP must support family farms first and foremost.

New Pillar 2 Scheme

“We also want to see a Pillar 2 scheme where we have an agri-environment scheme that looks a lot more like REPS and a lot less like GLAS. In short, we want Pillar 2 schemes that mean that the farmer who participates can see a real benefit over the farmer that doesn’t.

Mr Kent said he was pleased to see that the Department has finally taken action on the issue of carcass trim supervision. He said however that, “Now it is also time to ensure the exact same scrutiny in sheep meat plants. ICSA has raised concerns that there are different kill out rates being reported in different sheep factories and we need the same Department scrutiny for the sheep sector as the beef sector.”

Mr Kent welcomed the publication of an organic strategy highlighted the need for a much more ambitious strategy to better market our organic meats and capitalise much
more on the potential.

He said ICSA is fully opposed to making the TB history available on mart boards and will remain committed to this position at the TB stakeholder forum.

Mr Kent reiterated the association’s stance that a stronger line on rural crime is needed and that the Government get to grips with escalating insurance costs which is a real problem for all businesses including farmers and marts.



ICSA pulls out of beef forum as farmer fury grows over prices

No point in meeting ‘when factories are attending in bad faith.’

Sligo News File

Amid growing anger over prices, the ICSA is set to boycott tomorrow’s Department of Agriculture’s beef forum.

Patrick Kent, president ICSA

The association said it had decided to shun the meeting “due to the lack of solidarity shown by meat processors in recent weeks.”

The forum was set up to tackle the price crisis facing farmers in the beef sector.

Cutting prices week after week is shameful.

However, association president Patrick Kent said that attending a roundtable discussion was pointless “when factories are attending in bad faith.

“Cutting prices week after week is shameful. It shows complete contempt for farmers and is particularly egregious when many are on their knees due to increased costs.”

Sugar beet ‘worth of revival’ – Kent

‘Badly missed as a useful break crop.’

Sligo News File.

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said plans by the Beet Ireland group to revive the sugar beet sector in Ireland “are worthy of careful consideration by tillage farmers” and the Government should look at helping “in every way possible.

He said:

Patrick Kent,
President ICSA

“The loss of sugar beet was a huge blow to the tillage sector and its effects are still evident to this day. Price per ton will be a critical issue to farmers but the potential to build a sustainable business for the long term is key.

“The growing demand for sugar is obviously a central consideration but modern beet processing provides many opportunities for diversified by-products. This would also be beneficial to the livestock sector with the ready availability of beet pulp nuts which have traditionally been a valued component of cattle rations.

“Sugar beet has been badly missed as a useful break crop. Tillage farmers are well aware of the need for crop rotation, but it is also a requirement for the CAP greening payment. Without sugar beet, the options for crop rotation are much more limited and make less sense in terms of soil management. It is also worth noting that modern
varieties of sugar beet are improving all the time in terms of yield. While current prices in the UK look weak, longer term it is very difficult to say where that market is going given Brexit uncertainty.

“However, a more significant factor may be the future of EU renewable energy policy. Negotiations around the RED II directive are moving into a critical phase at the EU parliament plenary session in the coming week (January 15) and it is vital that the Irish government and Irish MEPs support more not less biofuels in order to deliver the decarbonising of transport and as a way of supporting EU farmers.

“Another factor will be the blending rate for biofuels at a member state level. The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is considering increasing the biofuel obligation rate from the current 8% and this, along with decisions in other member states, will potentially increase the demand for biofuels if the right call is made.

“Countries such as France produce biofuels from sugar beet, although farmers in the UK and mainland Europe more typically grow wheat, maize and rapeseed for biofuels.

“Either way, increased demand for biofuels will be critical in determining the outlook for European tillage farmers and this will indirectly influence the profitability of sugar beet in Ireland.”

ICSA rips into ‘latest EU Commission leaked proposals on biofuels’

No scientific basis for decision.

Risk to tens of thousands of jobs.

Sligo News File Online

It would appear the EU is backing away from its existing policy on biofuels.

Patrick Kent, President. ICSA.
Patrick Kent, President. ICSA.

According to the ICSA, leaked Commission proposals apparently reveal moves to slash the target for the crop biofuel component of EU transport fuels from 7% to 3.4% by 2030.

President of the Association, Patrick Kent said the Commission “which was supportive of biofuels has now decided to reverse its position without any scientific basis for so doing.”

The strategy, he said, “flies in the face of logic.

“What the Commission is proposing to do will deny tillage farmers access to an important income stream and also puts at risk tens of thousands of jobs across Europe.”

It will also, he said, end investor interest in EU biofuels, have a direct knock-on effect on the efforts to revive the Irish sugar industry and make it harder to achieve EU targets to cut GHG emissions from road traffic.

“Perhaps the most ludicrous aspect of the direction the Commission is taking the EU is that the problem which it is trying to solve – the upsurge in palm oil imports into Europe – has nothing to do with European farmers and could be resolved if the Commission and the Member States applied the sustainability criteria set out in EU law and adopted a more differentiated approach to biofuels than the simplistic approach now being advanced.”

He said, “ICSA wants to see crop-based biofuels supported because they offer a real option for hard- pressed farmers to make money rather than being totally reliant on food and feed which are in surplus in Europe.

“We see desperate attempts to find new markets for food everywhere from China to Africa which reflects the fact that EU farmers are producing more food and feed than we can consume in Europe. Yet we have spent years listening to lectures about how EU farmers should not be supported to produce excess food which would be then ‘dumped’ in Africa to the detriment of African agriculture.”

“Sustainable crop-based biofuels provide a win-win in Europe. Contrary to the ludicrous notion that forests will be levelled and bogs drained, crop-based biofuels can fill multiple roles from each hectare grown.

“A hectare used for biofuels still produces top class animal feed as a by-product of the fuel production process. As an additional bonus, the by-product feed is higher in protein and thus reduces the need for soya imports from South America.

“In truth, it is the over-dependence on soya imports that is the real cause of forest destruction albeit in South America. There is no credible evidence of struggling farmers in Europe making totally uneconomic investments to reclaim forest or bog to produce animal feeds for livestock systems that are barely viable in 2016.”

“For years now, we have listened to EU Commissioners laud the multifunctional character of EU agriculture. In part, this was because both WTO rules and NGO pressures were hostile to policies which subsidised extra food exports from Europe. It is now hypocritical to reverse direction and say that much needed renewable fuels are no longer acceptable and that we should go back to expanding food exports to markets in the least developed countries.

He said the ICSA is now calling on all of the parties in Dail Eireann to “live up to the undertakings that they have given on the issue of sugar/biofuel production” and to reject at national and EU level any cuts in the existing EU support for this.