Teagasc farm income figures clearly show that profitability at farm level remains a major challenge for the low-income drystock sector. IFA is clear that Government must put the sustainable and profitable growth of livestock farms at the core of its strategy for the development of the meat and livestock sector which is of key importance to the agricultural sector.
Competition in the industry
In light of the recent proposed investment by ABP in Slaney Foods, IFA requires:
- The Government must ensure that the Competition and Consumer ProtectionCommission guarantees primary producers full and open competition in the meat processing and rendering sectors. Alternatively the Government must introduce legislation to guarantee competition.
- Additional direct payments to support the suckler cow herd, to reach a level of €200/cow per year;
- Delivery on the objectives and outcomes agreed in the Beef Forum, including further progress on specification, the proper operation of the QPS, increased age limit, greater availability of contracts, positive price incentives to reward quality production, improved controls on carcase trim and classification, price transparency, the establishment of producer organisations and support for live exports, including a resolution to the 30-day TB residency issue.
Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP 2015 – 2020)
- Availability of the BDGP to all suckler farmers, with payments on all eligible animals.
- Immediate commencement of the work of the review group to implement necessary changes including greater flexibility on the 6 year rule, reduced genotyping requirements, accommodation of 3, 4, and 5 star animals and changes to the stocking rate restrictions.
- Improvement in the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Schemes involving proper rewards for all participants, fair and practical audits at farm level and a close out approach providing tolerances to allow issues to be rectified.
- The Government in conjunction with Bord Bia should develop a strong brand based on Ireland’s grass-based production model which will deliver premium prices for Irish beef.
- A targeted payment of €20 per ewe is required to maintain the national ewe flock;
- In addition, sheep farmers must have full access to the RDP schemes of Knowledge Transfer, ANCs, GLAS and TAMs.
Gaining access to markets such as the US and China as well as other growing markets is very important for the sheepmeat sector and must be prioritised.
Sheep Identification and EID
Farmers must not be subject to additional costs and bureaucracy and the derogation for lambs sent to slaughter must be maintained.
The Department of Agriculture should introduce an accurate and transparent price reporting system for finished lambs at factory level.
The end of quotas in the dairy sector has brought significant new growth opportunities, but these come with extreme price volatility. Farmers have invested for the future, with close on €1.9b spent on farms since 2007, and another €1bn or so needed to deliver the industry target of a 50% increase in milk output by 2020. Government can assist farmers and the dairy sector to achieve growth targets with supportive policy initiatives, in order to ensure that it can deliver its full potential of additional jobs and export revenue.
IFA is seeking an active role for the Dairy Forum led by the Minister of Agriculture to ensure all industry stakeholders, including processors, but also banks, relevant state agencies, etc. prioritise the development of financial products, advice and other risk management instruments to support dairy farmers through extreme income volatility.
Finance and Taxation
- The development of alternative sources of finance outside of the traditional banking sector, with tight regulations to protect farmers;
- Tax mechanisms to allow farmers put away funds in good years to be returned to their taxable income for investment purposes or when incomes are poor.
Development and Infrastructure
- Supportive planning guidelines to provide for the on-farm development necessary to deliver fully on the growth potential of the sector.
- The development of the local infrastructure necessary to serve new and expanded dairy processing plants, which in turn will deliver additional employment and export revenue
Pigs and Poultry
Both the pig and poultry sectors have invested heavily over the last number of years in order to meet increasingly stringent environmental and welfare legislation. Government support is required to reduce the regulatory compliance burden imposed on farmers.
Market support measures and marketing
- National funding to match the EU aid crisis fund for pig farmers;
- Re-opening of Russian markets for Irish pigmeat products.
Labeling and promotion
- Changes to labelling legislative and effective enforcement to allow the extension of Country of Origin labelling to loose product as well as processed pig meat. This would give primary food producers a fair opportunity to differentiate their products to the consumer.
- Additional resources required to promote pigmeat on export markets.
- Increase in the TAMS II investment ceiling to €300,000.
Government policy must safeguard the high health status of the national herd that has been achieved by farmers through their investment in bio-security and compliance with stringent controls. However, farmers continue to bear an unfair and disproportionate burden of the costs of animal health policy and this must be rectified.
- The savings accrued in the TB Eradication Programme must be utilised to provide payment of adequate compensation whilst there must also be the removal of unnecessary restrictions. This involves increased consequential loss payments for farmers to align the level of support with actual income foregone, payments for all animals removed, and an increase in live valuation ceilings;
- A properly funded Deer Management Programme to address the expanding deer population including a targeted programme surrounding TB outbreaks;
- Overhaul of the governance structure of Animal Health Ireland (AHI) to provide proper stakeholder representation at board level;
- A Department of Agriculture led and fully funded IBR programme to protect market access for our vital live export trade;
- A commitment to provide the financial resources necessary for a fair and equitable cost sharing Johnes control programme;
- A cost effective and competitive fallen animal collection/disposal service;
EU animal health and welfare legislation must not imposed increased costs, controls and inspections or unnecessary restrictions;
- A single EU licensing authority for veterinary medicines providing Irish farmers access to competitively priced medicines while protecting the existing supply routes;
- Maintenance of the regional veterinary laboratories structure and provision of increased resources to strengthen vital diagnostic and advice services for farmers.
Maintaining and expanding a viable arable crop production sector in Ireland is critical to providing top quality cereals for our distilling and brewing industry and our indigenous livestock sectors.
- Targeted grant aid for on-farm grain drying, storage and processing facilities, precision farming and low drift spraying equipment to maximise efficiency of nutrient use and increase the value added of primary production;
- A Renewable Heat Incentive RHI grant to fund the installation of biomass grain dryers;
- Funding for biomass trade centres to enable the mobilisation of biomass crop residues; and,
- Support for the establishment of machinery rings.
Potatoes and horticulture
- Annual Funding of €8m for the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector which must be extended to include potatoes;
- Simplification of reporting and compliance to enable draw down of funding for Producer Organisations.
The forest sector comprising the growing, harvesting and processing of forest products contributes €2.3bn to the Irish economy and creates over 12,000 jobs, predominantly in rural areas. Irish forests will sequester in excess of 4.8 million tonnes of carbon by 2020 making an important contribution towards meeting our climate change targets.
The Forestry Programme 2014 – 2020 provides a vital support structure to achieve national policy targets in afforestation and the mobilisation of the private timber resource
- Full drawdown of the funding in the remaining 5 years of the Forestry Programme to 2020;
- Supports for existing forest owner groups to encourage mobilisation and realise the economic potential;
- Under the afforestation scheme the grant to plant marginal land (GPC1) must cover the full cost of establishment and the premium rate must compensate the farmer for agricultural income foregone in accordance with the RDP;
- The establishment of a Forestry Trade Forum by the Minister to increase transparency and achieve the timber production targets;
- The Forest Service to honour its commitment not to recoup overpayments arising from the initial digitisation of forest areas onto the Forest Service payment system. This commitment accepted that the mapping errors were genuine and resulted from advances in mapping technologies;
- The Forest Service to limit the period of recoupment of overpayments relating to mapping errors under their control checks to a maximum of four years in line with EU regulations;
- Removal of the afforestation ban and the reduction of management restrictions within the SPAs. The Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan must recognise that responsible forest management practices and hen harrier conservation are compatible.
Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020
The RDP provides a vital support structure through a wide range of schemes benefiting farmers across the country. The allocation of EU and National funding to the programme is in excess of €4bn.
- Full drawdown of the funding in the remaining five years of the programme to 2020;
- Flexibilities to ensure that funding can be reallocated depending on the demand for various measures;
- In the EU CAP mid-term review 2017, the RDP must be assessed in relation to funding requirements and where necessary, additional exchequer resources must be provided;
- Additional State funding to measures such as ANC payments.
- A €250m annual funding allocation for agri-environment schemes;
- The reopening of the GLAS scheme in early 2016 to ensure 50,000 farmers can join the scheme;
- Greater flexibility to make the scheme more attractive to farmers;
- Flexibility on commonages to ensure that farmers can maximise their payments;
- In a mid-term review of GLAS the cap of €5,000 must be increased.
Targeted output Agri-Environment Scheme
- The implementation of the targeted output Agri-Environmental scheme (in addition to the Burren) to complement existing environmental programmes in areas such as Hen Harrier, Pearl Mussel, Upland Areas, Shannon Callows and other designated areas.
Areas of Natural Constraint (formerly Disadvantaged Areas)
- Reversal of the cuts to payment rates and number of qualifying hectares in recent budgets to restore the ANC scheme and ensure it achieves its target of maintaining farming and economic activity across Ireland, including marginal areas;
- A commitment in the ANC review that existing areas will not lose out and that the funding allocation is increased.
- Administration of TAMs II in a prompt and timely fashion recognising the fact that many sectors have a narrow period in which to carry out significant building work on their farm;
- Expansion of the list of eligible items for grant aid to include grain storage, sheep fencing underpasses, meal bins, land reclamation and internal road infrastructure.
The extension of the discussion group model across different sectors as an effective means of knowledge transfer has been a positive initiative over the last five years. The continued growth of KT programmes, and their extension to all sectors, is an important element of the new RDP and will contribute to greater on-farm efficiency and competitiveness.
- Knowledge transfer schemes to be available across all sectors, maximising the payment to farmers, including accommodation of mixed
- No charging of farmer participants for Veterinary fees in KT progamme
The imposition of environmental designations on farmers’ land has resulted in significant restrictions on farming activities and other developments. When
designations were first imposed, commitments were given that compensation would be paid where farmers suffered losses, however in recent years these
have not been properly honoured.
- The negotiation during 2016 of a new agreement for the implementation of SACs including proper consultation, a workable and truly independent appeals system and full compensation where restrictions are imposed;
- The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Farm Plan Scheme to be available to all farmers who have a designation imposed on their land
and the new agreement on SACs to be implemented before end 2016.
Other policy areas
Rural Walks Scheme
- A doubling in the funding of the Rural Walks Scheme from €2m to €4m to increase the number of walks covered from 40 to 80.
- Local Community Development Companies, which will operate the new Leader programme at local authority level prioritise support for on farm projects given the need for further diversification.
- The decision by the Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to allow for more flexible hedge-cutting dates must be fully honoured;
- The changes in the gorse buring dates to include April, must be fully honoured.
- Full compensation for any income losses or property devaluation must be paid.
Ireland faces a significant challenge to meet our environmental commitments on renewable energy generation and emission reductions. A number of policy actions need to be taken address these challenges and to ensure the sustainability and growth of agriculture into the future.
- Investment in farm-level renewable energy which has the potential to contribute to our economic recovery through employment creation particularly in rural areas, reducing carbon emissions and stabilising energy costs by increasing security of supply;
- Ring fencing of carbon tax revenues to be reinvested in funding for renewable energy projects;
- The establishment of a high level task force, chaired by an independent chairperson and with representation from the various departments to coordinate policy formulation and implementation in the area of Renewable Energy;
- Front loading of any Renewable Heat Incentive scheme to promote the establishment and adoption of new technology;
- A Renewable Heat Incentive tariff to support the development of a renewable heat market:– 13c/kWth for small commercial biomass (up to 500kWth); 8c/kWth for medium commercial biomass (less than 1MWth); – 1.5c/kWth for large commercial biomass (1MWth and above).
Community renewable energy
To date the majority of renewable energy projects developed in Ireland have been driven by the corporate sector. Their scale and strategy have left many communities divided and opposed to renewables. Community based renewable projects can, if developed properly, have a real lasting benefit for communities.
- Tariff premia and grid exemption for renewable projects where communities have an opportunity to be shareholders in the projects;
- That land used for renewable energy production be eligible under the basic payment scheme;
- That Investment in farm-scale renewable energy initiatives qualify under the Employment and Investment Incentive Scheme;
- Income tax exemption on income received from the alternative use of farmland for renewable projects, where such income is used for the purposes of re-investment in farm businesses;
- Increased tariffs for roof-mounted solar.
Bioenergy and Biomass
- Grant aid for the development of biomass trading centres for the grain and forestry sectors, and support for the establishment of ESCOs (Energy Supply Companies) by groups of farmers.