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Welcoming today (Wed) the announcement by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys of an additional 100 dairy labour permits for workers from outside the EU/EEA.

“IFA made a detailed business case for this, and the Minister has responded positively following the initial run of 50 permits.”

He said the same approach was now needed for the pig and poultry sector, which are experiencing the same recruitment difficulties.

He said the same approach was now needed for the pig and poultry sectors, which are experiencing the same recruitment difficulties as dairy farmers, in the context of full employment in Ireland and tighter labour markets all over Europe.

“It is important that some of the details of the scheme be reviewed to make it more flexible and a better fit for farmers, who in many cases are first-time employers, without access to HR departments or consultants.  First of all, those who have applied in recent months must retain their place in the queue and not have to reapply for this new batch of permits,” Joe Healy said.

“There are many prospective farmer employers at different points of their expansion plans, who will now be keen to recruit well ahead of the busy spring 2020 period to ensure they can train and settle their new employees into the business.  This must be facilitated by prompt processing and greater feedback during the application process, with dedicated teams and contact points for farmer applicants within the Department,” he said.

“Finally, it is crucial that the Minister recognise the labour and skills shortages also affecting the Irish pig and poultry farming sectors. They too need to be able to access workers from outside the EU/EEA,” he concluded.

 

IFA Animal Health Chairman Pat Farrell said IFA National Council have strongly rejected proposals by the TB forum to increase TB controls and costs on farms while refusing to address the shortcomings in the current compensation schemes.

Pat Farrell said farmers have had enough of the endless controls and restrictions on their farms by the Department of Agriculture, with no appreciation of the impact.

He said it is now up to the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed to decide if he is prepared to support farmers who are exposed to his Department’s controls and enormous associated impact on their farms or if he is going to push ahead with increasing further these costs and controls on farmers.

Pat Farrell said the TB Forum, established by Minister Creed under the chairmanship of Michael Cronin to involve stakeholders in the decision-making process for the TB eradication programme, has failed to deliver on this key objective.

He said the Forum merely functioned as a vehicle for the Department of Agriculture to impose their views of the TB programme on all stakeholders while continuing to ignore the voice of farmers, who are the single largest contributor to TB eradication.

He said eradication of the disease in the shortest feasible timeframe must be the objective, however, farmers will not accept additional controls until the deficiencies in the current compensation schemes are addressed.

Pat Farrell said farmer costs in the programme have spiralled since 2012, rising by 15%, with all other contributor costs reducing including the Minister’s contribution to the programme.

Direct farmer contributions increased by €4.513m from €30.641m to €35.154m, DAFM contributions reduced by €289,000 from €45.825m to €45.536m and the EU co-financing reduced by €1.337m from €11.085m to €9.748m.

The funding shift between 2012 and 2018 represents an increase of 15% for farmers, a reduction of 1% for the national exchequer and a reduction of 12% by the EU.

The IFA Chairman said against this background and the enormous costs and losses imposed on farmers in the TB programme IFA made detailed submissions on necessary changes to the Live Valuation Scheme, Income Supplement Scheme, Depopulation Grant Scheme and the Hardship Grant to offset the burden of controls on farmers.

However, representatives of the Minister for Agriculture at the Forum stated they will not support any increases to compensation rates for farmers. This has frustrated the work of the Forum and prevented any meaningful progress being made.

Pat Farrell has called on the Minister for Agriculture to immediately clarify his position on this critical issue for farmers. The objective must be to reduce the number of farms having TB breakdowns but those unfortunate enough to experience breakdowns cannot be just ignored by the Minister and his officials and left deal with the enormous impact on their farms and their livelihoods. These farmers must be fully supported through what is an extremely difficult, traumatic and costly experience.

He said the Minister must confirm to farmers if the views expressed by his officials at the TB Forum are consistent with his views and if not resolve the issue as a matter of urgency.

Pat Farrell said the TB burden has gone on for too long and eradication must be the objective but this will not be achieved by the usual Department of Agriculture simplistic approach of just tightening controls on farmers and increasing the cost burden while ignoring the stress, trauma and economic impact these controls have on farmers and their families.

In addition, he said IFA strongly reject the EU proposal to impose 30-day pre-movement testing on farms over six months tested. He said the Minister and our MEPs must stand up and be counted by outrightly rejecting this unscientific, market distorting proposal that swill not contribute to eradication of the disease in support of Irish farmers which could cost €20m annually.

The IFA National Council, made up of representatives from all sectors and counties, has unanimously reiterated their support for IFA’s six principles that all prime cattle should be included in the BEAM Scheme.

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IFA President Joe Healy said the EU Commission must act now on the EU Brexit beef crisis, stop substandard beef imports into Europe and also make the €1bn available immediately for direct aid and market supports.

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IFA Environment Chairman Thomas Cooney has called on Government to ensure that the soon to be published recommendations from the nitrates derogation review support the sustainable development of the sector.

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