The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) will host its AGM and annual conference on Thursday 30 January. The venue is Dublin’s Alexander Hotel. The annual meeting, which will be attended by executive members only, gets under way at 2pm with the conference to follow at 5pm.

“Our conference is an open event,” an ICSA spokesperson told AgriLand.

“This year’s guest speaker will be Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney. The conference will also have a strong technical focus with ‘improved farm management systems’ an overarching theme.”

The AGM will see president elect Patrick Kent take over at the helm of the ICSA. The meeting will also see a number of committee chairmanships selected.

Over the coming weeks ICSA will focus its lobbying activities on the issue of Government co-funding the next rural development programme (RDP).

“This is absolutely crucial,” an ICSA source confirmed.

“We have heard rumours to the effect that Government may commit to a 47 or 46 per cent funding match. The reality is that anything below the full co-funding that will severely damage the financial prospects of those farmers who can least afford to a hit in support levels.

“It must also be pointed out that the Government is currently committed to an historically low level of funding for Pillar 2 projects.”

Regarding future RDP-related measures, the ICSA wants Government to commit to an adequately funded agri-environment scheme.

“We also want to see appropriate support measures for suckler farmers put in place,” an ICSA spokesperson further explained.

“In so doing, the Government will be providing support where it is needed most.”

For his part, Kent believes that Irish consumers must be made more aware of the tremendous quality, which is such a hallmark of locally produced food.

“Part of the problem up to now is that home-grown food has not been promoted effectively. And this must be changed,” he told AgriLand

The ICSA representative also pointed out that local consumers should be prepared to pay more for locally produced food.

“Ten years ago 27 per cent of an average household income was dedicated to weekly food purchases,” he stressed.

“Today the equivalent figure is just 17 per cent. During this same period, however, the quality of locally produced beef and lamb has improved significantly.”

Kent is firmly of the view that Irish family farm businesses should not get caught up in a rat race, vying with each other to see who can produce the largest level of output.

“Quality is the name of the game,” he continued.

“Local farmers can invest in improved management systems, which will allow them significantly improve the value of the produce they are bringing to market. And to achieve this, they must think beyond the meat plant and think pro-actively about the needs of consumers.

“But the bottom line in all of this is that farmers must be paid accordingly. The days of cheap food are over.”