ICSA AGM: Farmers need clarity on Brexit intervention

The Government must provide farmers with details of emergency Brexit aid for the beef sector, attendees heard at the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association’s (ICSA’s) annual general meeting today, January 31.

Addressing the meeting, Patrick Kent, the association’s national president, called on the Government to provide details on the nature and scope of the aid, that he said, would be necessary if a no-deal Brexit scenario came to pass.

“The Government must be forthcoming with details of the emergency aid it intends to seek for the beef sector from the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit,” Kent told Michael Creed, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, who was also in attendance.

We need a commitment to put a realistic floor under the price of beef, with a trigger price that ensures that current prices cannot be allowed to fall any further.

Kent argued that market panic was already having an effect on the price of beef, resulting in uncertainty among farmers – something, he said, that cannot be allowed to continue.

“Farmers have been operating in a vacuum, while factories have been taking advantage,” he also claimed.

Kent went on to accuse supermarkets and processors of exploiting farmers based on false costs of production, a practice he insisted must end.

He highlighted the fact that a recent assessment of the cost of beef production put the figure between €5 to €5.30, values which “bring a sense of reality to the discussion by including a rate for the farmer’s labour”.

“There is no other industry where the cost of production ignores basic labour costs,” Kent argued.

The ICSA president also called for a review of the beef grid, saying: “We want it simplified, more straightforward.

“We want to see better bonuses for U-grade cattle, and this should be paid for by higher penalties on P-grade cattle. All O-grade cattle should qualify for a quality assurance bonus, as should quality cows and young bulls, but not P-grade cattle of any category,” said Kent.

The AGM also heard that more must be done to help live exporters, and that there must be no “red tape” holding up the live export trade.

Kent also reiterated his association’s criticism of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, over the latter’s comments on eating less red meat so as to apparently reduce his carbon footprint.

In the minister’s presence, Kent welcomed the department’s move for more stringent measures against carcass trimming, but also criticised the GLAS scheme.

On the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Kent said that a return to the idea of “extensification” as a pillar of the policy was needed to reflect the fact that “no livestock production system is profitable at the moment”.