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SUBSTANTIALLY MORE FUNDING AND SUPPORTS NEEDED FOR BEEF SECTOR IN CRISIS – IFA

IFA President Joe Healy said today (29 July) that given the increasing threat of a no-deal Brexit, substantially more EU and Government funding and supports will be needed for the beef sector.

Joe Healy was responding to the details announced by Minister Creed this morning for the distribution of the €100m fund, first announced by Commissioner Hogan last May.

He said farmers urgently need more support and a clear roadmap from Brussels and Dublin as to how they will support the agricultural sector, should a no-deal Brexit come to pass.

The scheme announced today covers losses from 24th September 2018 to May 10th 2019. While this is important, unfortunately prices have deteriorated much further since May, with base prices down by 45c/kg or €160/Hd.

IFA is calling on the Government and EU Commission to immediately;

  • Secure further direct aid support for farmers to deal with losses incurred, particularly for beef farmers, post-May 2019. These ongoing losses are due to the decline in the value of sterling and market disturbance arising from Brexit uncertainty.
  • Make available the €1bn EU fund immediately to stabilise the Irish and EU beef market, which is now in crisis.
  • Ban the importation of 270,000t of Mercosur beef imports from south America, which has consistently failed to meet European standards in audits by the EU Food and Veterinary Office.
  • In the event of a no-deal/hard Brexit which reduces market access and increases barriers to trade, the EU must make available structural and adjustment funding. In this context State-aid rules must be set aside.
  • Secure increased funding for the CAP in the next MFF 2021-2027.
  • Reject the proposal to cut the Irish allocation by €97m pa and seek an increase to take account of inflation and the extra demands on farmers.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there may be further issues in terms of a shortfall in 2020, EU or national funding may be required in this instance.

IFA President Joe Healy said beef farmers are now in dire straits with the threat of a no-deal Brexit causing mayhem in the EU Beef market, which is now in crisis.

On the €100m scheme itself he said that while he welcomed the fact that animals controlled by factories were excluded, he was concerned that the limits and conditions put in place by Minister Creed could lead to an under spend of the fund.

IFA Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said, “The Minister has said that the payment rate to farmers might be cut if the scheme is over spent. We want a commitment from the Minister that if the money is underspent, that he will re-look at some of the limits and restrictions, or increase the payment rate. It would be a travesty if some this funding went unspent due to restrictions put in place by the Minister,” he said.

“The Minister could have paid this funding on all prime cattle (young bulls, steers and heifers) as set out in IFA’s six principles and ensured the fund was fully spent. We would be concerned that the way the scheme is now structured will result in the fund being underspent,” said Angus Woods.

IFA Farm Forestry Chair, Vincent Nally said that farmers that have been affected by the ash dieback disease must be given the option not to replant, without penalties.

“Many of the farmers affected by ash dieback feel abandoned by this Government,” said Mr. Nally.

He said farmers were never been properly compensated for the financial losses inflicted on them as a result of the disease. “The previous reconstitution schemes supported farmers to manage or replant infected woodlands depending on the rate of infection and/or height of trees, however farmers never received any compensation for the loss of timber revenue. This is unacceptable to IFA,” said Mr. Nally.

Ash accounts for over 25,000 hectares or 3.8% of the total forest estate according to the 2017 National Forest Inventory. Approximately 60% of this area is under 30 years of age. The vast majority of these woodlands are owned and managed by farmers.

He said it is important the new scheme makes good on this by compensating farmers for the loss of timber earning and provides a forest premium on the replanted land for 15 years according to GPC rate planted.

“Many of those that planted were dependent on the projected income from the woodland for their pension and the disease has effectively rendered the investment and their land worthless,” said Mr. Nally.

He stressed that the scheme must be open to all infected woodlands, particularly when the experience of forest owners in mainland Europe is considered, which suggests that the majority of ash trees in infected woodlands would decline or die over the next 10 to 15 years.

“Irish ash woodlands fall into a high-risk category since they were established typically in single specie blocks”, said Mr. Nally.

He concluded that the lack of scheme meant that essential management and monitoring of diseased woodlands was not happening which presented a safety risk as heavily infected trees can become brittle and unstable.

“A new scheme with appropriate supports must be introduced as a matter of urgency, with the option for farmers not to replant if that is their preferred choice, “said Mr. Nally.

 

IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods has described proposals to cut the national suckler cow herd from the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) as, “unacceptable, lazy and  flawed”.

He called on the Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed to immediately reject these discriminatory and nonsensical proposals.

“Minister Creed is on record as saying there is no Government agenda to cut the suckler herd. The Minister needs to make it clear that this report from the CCAC is not Government policy, and that he will not be supporting it”.

“In a report commissioned by IFA in 2018, UCC Prof. Thia Hennessey calculated that a 50 % cut in the suckler cow herd would result in a €1.5bn reduction to national economic output, with up to 80% of the impact in western counties from Donegal to Kerry,” he said.

“It is totally wrong and unfair of the CCAC to try and push all of the weight of climate change on top of the suckler cow herd. The Council ignores the hard work of suckler farmers in addressing climate change.”

He said suckler cow farmers are the leaders in agriculture in terms of tackling climate change.

Under the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) are estimating a 14% reduction in Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from sucklers by 2030.

Angus Woods pointed out that this is before other technologies are adopted and deployed.

“In marginal land areas, suckler and sheep farming are the only options because of land type. Suckler and sheep farming are essential to the socio-economic and environmental sustainability of rural areas. Contrary to the views of the CCAC, suckler and sheep farming are vital in terms of maintaining the environment, the biodiversity and preventing land abandonment.”

He said the fall in suckler cow numbers of 14% over the last decade, has already left some areas with real socio-economic problems.

The IFA Livestock leader pointed out that Irish beef farmers are amongst the most carbon efficient food producers in the world, due our grass-based model of food production.

“Reducing the Irish suckler herd will result in an increase in global emissions through carbon leakage, as beef would be produced in countries with less sustainable systems,” Angus Woods concluded.

IFA President Joe Healy has described proposals in the recently published Climate Advisory Council (CAC) report to significantly reduce the national suckler herd, as being based on the flawed logic of looking at emissions from food production on a single country basis.

The IFA President said, “The proposed cut in the herd takes no account of the economic or social consequences, particularly for areas where beef production is the backbone of the local economy, with cattle farmers spending over €1.5 billion each year on agri-inputs.

Our farmers are amongst the most carbon efficient food producers in the world, because of our grass-based model of food production. Reducing the Irish suckler herd will result in an increase in global emissions, as beef would be produced in countries with less sustainable systems.  As I recently pointed out in our ongoing campaign of opposition to the proposed Mercosur trade deal, the Brazilians are felling the equivalent of a football pitch every minute, to meet international beef demand.

The CAC recommendation will continue to fuel this climate destruction. With the world population growing it is reckless to consider reducing food production in countries who have ideal climatic conditions for producing food naturally.”

The Government’s Climate Plan clearly identifies implementing the Teagasc Climate Roadmap as the best way to reduce emissions from agriculture.

Thomas Cooney, IFA Environment Chairman has strongly criticised the CAC’s lack of vision and policy direction, to drive the delivery of the 18.5 Mt of carbon savings identified in Teagasc’s Climate Roadmap, instead falling back on the lazy option of targeting food production.

“Farmers in Ireland continue to lead climate action. No other country in the world measures, monitors and manages carbon from farm to fork at a national level. Today over 212,000 carbon assessments have been completed across the 139,000 farms in Ireland, increased numbers of farmers are using low emissions slurry spreading equipment, GLAS is fully subscribed and all farmers who receive a basic payment farm to Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions criteria.

What’s it all for, if the solution now proposed by the CAC is to reduce our climate efficient food production? This is a dismal reflection on the scientific and research work of our state agencies. That these agencies are now saying that they have failed to provide the research and technical solutions to reduce emissions, so therefore production must reduce is, frankly, shocking.

Instead the agencies should back IFA’s call for them to collaborate with the relevant Government Departments’ and IFA to deliver the fullest potential of the emissions reductions and improvements to farm level profitability that can be delivered through the delivery of the Teagasc climate roadmap.”

Launching the IFA pre-Budget SubmissionFARMING FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE – in Dublin today (Wed), IFA President Joe Healy said a progressive Budget 2020, that supports Irish farmers to develop sustainably is imperative, given the immediate threats and long-term challenges facing the sector.

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