Sligo News File.
The government today found out how bad things in rural Ireland are when more than 600 farmers hit them with a powerful protest outside the venue in Cork where the Cabinet had decided to assemble for a meeting.
Some 75,000 beef producers at the heart of the rural economy are struggling to survive as prices plummet to an impossible low.
Pleadings by the Taoiseach that the government was aware of the plight of the country’s beef farmers didn’t assuage the anger of the crowd.
The scale of the heckling showed the protestors were in no mood to be fobbed off with sugary claptrap or more empty promises; they’ve had years of that kind of thing.
‘Where’s the beef, ya vegan’ shouted one with the evident intention of the message being picked up by Varadkar, a message to which reportedly he later replied, for what it was worth, that he was ‘very much an omnivore.’
Varadkar, reports say, attributed the worsening conditions in the beef sector to Brexit, weather conditions and an oversupply of beef.
As far as known, there was no comment from the man holding the brief for rural issues, Michael Ring.
The Taoiseach insisted that the government wanted to do more for the farming sector. They also had already made a submission to the European Commission regarding what they might be able to do to provide additional income supports to the industry.
Farmers are demanding a €100m support package for the beef sector
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Fianna Fail claims that plans to introduce new arrangements for the border and tariffs on products being exported from the Republic to Britain will have “massive ramifications on the Republic’s agri-food sector if allowed to be introduced.
“I sincerely hope that this is a provocative attempt to persuade MPs to vote against a no deal scenario when they are asked over the next 24 hours in Westminster,” said a spokesman for the party.
“The EU will obviously have to respond to the plans to allow goods to travel freely between the Republic and Northern Ireland in the short term and the Irish government will have to elaborate on their own plans to respond to this plan. The uncertainty is causing massive anxiety with businesses both North and South and will cost jobs soon if not sorted out.”
The government should publish the likely impact of the tariffs and put a plan in place to respond, the spokesman added.
A Leinster-based farm body has said the consensus among farm organisations is that a no-deal Brexit “would be a disaster.”
The IFA says it would be a “disastrous scenario” if a tariff regime is imposed on Irish food products.
Sligo News File.
State aid will not cover losses incurred by beef farmers in the event of a no-deal Brexit and the imposition of tariffs on Irish beef imports to Britain.
That’s the view of a Leinster-based farm body who have indicated that the government will have to seek a substantial EU aid package.
The IFA is of a similar mindset stating that the State aid limit will be inadequate.
President of the association said that “in a ‘no deal’ Brexit, State Aid limited to €8,300 per year will not be enough given the losses that farmers have already encountered and
will be facing in such a scenario.
“Talking about solidarity between the EU-27 is fine but meaningless unless it is backed up by extra funds,” he added
Sligo News File.
Fianna Fail wants its Fine Gael-led government partners to roll out more money to farmers.
Party TD Marc MacSharry said Agriculture Minister Michael Creed “must fulfil his commitment that money would be available to protect those in our biggest indigenous sector.
“Grants should be made available now in advance of Brexit to allow those in the sector to prepare,” he stressed.
“There are 35 days until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU and at this juncture, the risk of a no deal Brexit is a very real possibility.
“If this comes to pass and Irish beef is forced to compete in the UK market against cheaper imports from other countries thousands of jobs will be lost in both islands,” he warned.
Every effort must be made to safeguard this industry and, he added “the hundreds of thousands of people employed in it, both directly and indirectly.
“We are neglected by the government in the North West region and are most at risk from the consequences of a no deal Brexit.”
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Mona Donoghue Concannon has been elected Connacht Vice President of the Offaly-based ICSA.
She has reportedly stated that for too long the voice of women in agriculture hasn’t been heard.
Meanwhile, IFA Animal Health Chairman Pat Farrell has called on the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed reject the proposal to impose a 30-day pre-movement TB test on animals in the Delegated Acts under the New EU Animal Health Law.
He said the implementation of the control on animal movements would impact severely on the regular trade for cattle and add unnecessary costs to the TB programme.
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Sligo News File.
The value of the UK market for agri-food products was confirmed by Michael Creed, the agriculture Minister following a Dail query posted by Jackie Cahill, TD.
Total exports to the UK market amounted, he said to €5.2 billion in 2017. Some 48% of Ireland’s 2017beef exports, valued at €1,162 million, were shipped to Britain.
“Dairy exports from Ireland in 2017 were valued at €4,646m, of which 21 per cent (€997m) were sent to the UK. However, certain dairy exports (cheddar & other cheeses for example) rely almost entirely on the UK market.
“Under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariffs and duty rates for certain beef products are equivalent to a 70% tariff rate and for certain
dairy products up to the equivalent of a 50% tariff rate
“Retention of the UK market for the dairy and beef industry is a key component of the Government’s response to Brexit. In addition, I have introduced a range of measures to help these sectors to deal with the impacts of Brexit –
” – In Budget 2017, a farm-gate business costs reduction measure in order to enhance competitiveness, including a €150m low-cost loan scheme;
” – In Budget 2018, a €50m, dedicated Brexit package which included a contribution to a €300m (joint DAFM/DBEI) ‘Brexit Loan Scheme’, at least 40% of which is available to food businesses.
” – In Budget 2019, a €78m Brexit package for farmers, fishermen, food SMEs and to cover additional costs related to Brexit.
“It is also important to point out that the additional funding that I have provided to Bord Bia since the UK referendum – a total of €19.5 million – is being used, among other things, to provide direct support and advice to individual companies in relation to market diversification and to compile its market prioritisation reports, which are informing its own and my Department’s work in this area.
“In addition, I have met with the chief executives of all of the major British retailers to impress upon them the commitment of Irish suppliers in continuing to supply the UK market post-Brexit.
“More generally, the pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agri-food exports, including dairy and beef exports, is an ongoing and central component of the strategic development of the agri-food sector, as evidenced by its placement right at the centre of Food Wise 2025, the industry’s strategy for development over the coming years,” he added
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Sligo News File.
Beef farming is at rock bottom.
Deputy Aindrias Moynihan told the Dail that half of the country’s beef farmers are earning less than €10,000 a year, three quarters less than €20,000 and in the past year prices have flopped by upwards of €100 per head.
He said: “There is phenomenal pressure, on top of which is Brexit which also exerts huge pressure. Beef farmers believe their needs are not being met.”
Minister Michael Creed said he was conscious that 2018 was a difficult year for the suckler beef sector, “particularly in terms of unprecedented weather events which resulted in increased input costs owing to fodder shortages. We must also acknowledge the exposure of the sector to Brexit impacts.”
He then went on to list government measures designed to help the beleaguered industry.
€20 million for a new beef environmental efficiency pilot scheme focussed on carbon efficiency
€23 million ANC increase
GLAS, ANCs and knowledge transfer programme.
Suckler cow farmers also benefit from the basic payment scheme and greening payments under Pillar 1 of the CAP.
He strongly felt that the range of supports available to suckler cow farmers “is appropriate for the continued development of the sector.”
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Sligo News File
Ireland’s livestock trade has suffered a setback with Turkey announcing a suspension of live cattle imports.
The ban will remain in place for at least a couple of months, according to An Bord Bia.
Turkey says the move aims to protect their country’s producers amid concerns about an oversupply of beef.
Ireland exported some 13,000 cattle to Turkey in 2018, a drop on the previous year’s figure of 30,000.
Meanwhile, the Lancet, a medical journal, has stirred up a wave of anger with a report that diets containing meat could prove as damaging as smoking to human health.
A bunch of food scientists have seemingly come up with the finding following which it has been recommended that people minimise their intake of beef, lamb, pork and potato.
However, the report is being regarded by some as over the top. A top American cardiologist has said meat should make up about one-third of the plate.
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Sligo News File.
Property repossessions are happening on a daily basis in the North West, according to a spokesman for the Land League Gerry O’Boyle.
His comments follow an incident where eight security workers were allegedly injured during the repossession of property in Strokestown last week.
O’Boyle said the eviction was not an isolated incident and is occurring across Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has called on financial institutions and vulture funds to cease what he called “the draconian act of forced eviction.
He said: “The unfortunate scenes at a Roscommon farmyard over recent days were reminiscent of something from the turn of the century. Nobody wants to see families being dragged and beaten out of their homes by security personnel.”
The ICSA, he added, is at the forefront of dealing with people in debt and has seen a sharp rise in the number of people seeking help with their efforts to restructure their debt issues with their lenders.
“Violence at farm gates is not the answer; meditation is the only show in town and ICSA are here to assist farm families who are making a genuine effort to honour their commitments, he said.
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Sligo News File
What chance auctioneers and valuers will refuse to handle the sale of distressed property for financial institutions and vulture funds?
However, the ICSA has called on them “to come out publicly and state that they will not sell family farms, businesses or homes for vulture funds while meaningful engagement is taking place.”
Following a recent protest at the offices of an online property trading platform, the association said the site had withdrawn contentious lots from its portfolio.
A spokesman said that following the protest a fresh wave of landowners have looked to the ICSA for help and support. They feel aggrieved at the way their loans have been sold.
He said many are faced with losing everything, and the possibility of standoffs where families feel they have been mistreated is high, he said
“It’s time auctioneers & solicitors stand with the people and refuse to aid vultures in their quest for a quick profit. ICSA’s stance has always been mediation, not confrontation.
We will continue to seek outcomes that are palatable to all.”
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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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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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.
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.
“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.
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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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
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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.
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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
A final decision will be subject to regulatory approval.
The proposed new co-operative would trade under the name Lakeland Dairies.
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.
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