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Addressing the National Economic Dialogue in Dublin Castle today, IFA Farm Business Chairman Martin Stapleton said the most significant challenge for the sector is the imminent EU Mercosur trade deal, which undermines our high production standards.

Through its reports, the EU Food and Veterinary Office has shown that Brazilian imports fail to meet EU standards on traceability, food safety, animal health, the environment and labour law. This is a sell out and agriculture cannot be a sacrificial lamb for trade.

Martin Stapleton said CAP budgetary cuts and a looming Brexit present major threats to the sector, and agriculture must be supported to achieve sectoral climate action targets.

“In Europe, we expect our Government to take a firm position on the Irish CAP Budget where reductions in spending, coupled with a changing of the goalposts, is not acceptable for farm families. Income must be protected. The next round of CAP negotiations cannot result in more unviable Irish family farms by 2027,” he said.

In the short term, Brexit is the biggest challenge. From last Autumn to this Spring there was massive damage to the incomes of livestock farmers caused by uncertainty in the markets.

Martin Stapleton acknowledged the vital support provided by the EU and the Irish Government to producers for these historic losses.

“This Autumn we are once again faced with renewed uncertainty and the possibly of a no-deal outcome, which if it happened would result in far greater losses. It is critical that the future trading relationship between the EU and UK remains a top priority for the Irish Government.”

The IFA Farm Business Chairman said a clear budget must be delivered to achieve the sectoral actions in the Government’s Climate Action Plan.  “Agriculture is our largest indigenous sector; it is vital for keeping rural areas alive and sustainable into the future,” he said.

Martin Stapleton identified three key areas for the upcoming Budget.

  • Incentivised schemes for renewables at farm level, which would also provide a potential income source. If the Government is serious about community led initiatives, then this must mean grid access, improved planning and increased support for micro-gen renewables. More generally we need leadership to guide our sector through the delivery of the Teagasc Climate Roadmap.

Furthermore, we need a Government Strategy for the development of forestry on unenclosed lands. And finally support for further research to ensure all carbon sequestered in grassland, forestry and hedgerows is recognised.

  • The suckler cow herd is worth €3bn to the Irish economy exporting to over 60 international markets. In order to stabilise numbers and improve farm incomes, a targeted payment in the region of €200 per suckler cow is required, structured around the RDP and the existing Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme and Beef Data Genomics Programme.

 

  • The removal of discrimination in the tax system between PAYE employees and the self-employed. The current €300 gap must be closed out in Budget 2020. Within the taxation system there are further opportunities to encourage positive change for the environment, such as accelerated capital allowance for emission efficient equipment and the extension of the VAT 58 form to include items such as health and safety equipment.

Reacting to the publication of the Joint Oireachtas Committee report on the future of the beef sector, IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said the report was a mixed bag, with some positive recommendations and some missed opportunities to address the income crisis in the sector.

Angus Woods said in the detailed submission made by IFA, we made it very clear to the Committee that the ‘single biggest challenge in the beef sector is the income crisis at farm level’.

Welcoming the stance of the Committee on their opposition to the EU-Mercosur deal, Angus Woods said with the developments in Brussels this week, Committee members must make it crystal clear at this stage they will vote down a Mercosur deal with beef in it, when it comes before the Dail.

He called on members of the Committee to make it clear to the Taoiseach and Minister Creed today that a Mercosur deal will not get through the Dail.

In relation to the lack of competition in the beef sector, Angus Woods said its disappointing that the Committee failed to call on Minister Creed to direct the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to investigate the sector.

Angus Woods said the absence of any recommendation on the need for increased support for the important suckler cow herd is a missed opportunity, considering that all the political parties have indicated their support for sucklers.

On CAP, Angus Woods said the Agriculture Committee needs to make it clear to Minister Creed and the Government that under no circumstances can a cut in the CAP Budget be tolerated. “CAP direct payments are vital for the beef and livestock sector and farmers need an increase in the CAP Budget.”

On Brexit, Angus Woods said the facts are beef is more exposed than any other sector and we cannot face another cliff edge in October. He said farmers are facing the third year of Brexit uncertainty and bad prices, and it is totally unfair that farmers are expected to carry all the risks

Angus Woods welcomed the recommendation in the report on the need for additional support for the live export trade, which he said is essential for price competition and additional market outlets.

 

In relation to the QPS and grading, the IFA livestock leader said it is essential that farmers are properly rewarded for quality production.  He said IFA has made specific proposals for a suckler beef price premium. He added the Minister for Agriculture must guarantee that farmers are getting the correct grade for their cattle in the meat plants.

 

IFA National Livestock Committee Chairman Angus Woods said it is not acceptable that hundreds of farmers are still due their BDGP suckler payments because the Department of Agriculture has not yet carried out inspections under the scheme.

IFA has taken up the matter with the Department of Agriculture & insisted on immediate payment.

Angus Woods called on the Minister for Agriculture to cut through the red tape and bureaucratic delays around Department inspections and remove the blockage on all outstanding BDGP payments owed to suckler farmers.

He said, “Suckler farmers are on their knees financially and it is not acceptable that some farmers are still waiting on their BDGP payments, just because the Department have not got round to carrying out the inspections”.

The IFA Livestock leader pointed out that the Department had all of 2018 to carry out the inspections and under the Charter of Rights payments are due in mid-December.

TRADE

UNNECESSARY DEPARTMENT RESTRICTIONS ON MOVEMENTS COULD DAMAGE THE CALF TRADE – IFA

IFA President Joe Healy said the IFA has strongly outlined farmer objections and concerns over the imposition of unnecessary restrictions on the farm-to-farm movements put forward by the Dept of Agriculture.

“Ahead of the peak sale time for calves, these restrictions by the Department could damage the trade in a year when we need to see the doubling of numbers exported. We should be removing obstacles, not adding them.”

IFA has previously raised objections with the Department of Agriculture and pointed out that the changes to the farm-to-farm movement of animals fails to recognise the practical reality of the marketplace.

IFA National Animal Health Chairman Pat Farrell said while the majority of calves sold are over 10 days of age, the Department must facilitate the movement of young calves to farms where a replacement calf is needed for a suckler cow.

In relation to the shortening of the validity period of farm-to-farm compliance certificate and the requirement to identify the destination herd, this will impact on the functioning of the market, especially for farmers who are reliant on the paper-based system.

Pat Farrell said applying both changes is unnecessary, particularly the requirement to identify the destination herd at the time of application as this will interfere directly with the market.

IFA has again called on Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and the Department to reconsider the changes.

IFA Farm Business Chairman Martin Stapleton has said it’s vital that all possible actions are taken to stop AIB and Rabobank from selling further farm loans to unregulated vulture funds.  “Our view is that by selling these loans, banks which approved the loans in the first place are abdicating their responsibilities by throwing their customers to the wolves,” he said.

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