December was the month of elections with both the IFA and ICSA electing new presidents. Eddie Downey, from Slane in Co Meath, is the 14th president of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), carrying the day in the 2013 election by 1079 votes to the 779, notched up by Jer Bergin, from Co Laois.

In his opening speech Downey slammed the supermarkets for below cost selling. This led to a week long controversy over vegetable prices.

Wexford farmer Patrick Kent became the ICSA’s new head man taking over the reins from Gabriel Gilmartin. In his acceptance speech he called on Minister Simon Coveney to act decisively to ensure the ongoing sustainability of family farms in Ireland.

December also saw the launch of Bord Bia’s national Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS). The scheme features no cost, streamline of audits, farm inspections every 18 months.

Land transfer and succession, it burdens young and old that was the theme of Broadmore Research’s Pat Brogue speech in December at the Teagasc Farm Business Conference. He encouraged farmers to see all sides on the issue of land mobility.

The Taoiseach and Minister for Agriculture were in Japan in December on a Trade Mission. On the trip they announced that Japan is open to Irish beef for the first time since 2001 and marks Ireland as one of a select group of countries allowed to export beef there.

At Teagasc’s Future weather Conference in Dublin last month Thia Hennessy outlined that the fodder crisis cost Irish farming in the region of €500m.

Lively debate on CAP Pillar 2 co-funding continued in December. Fianna Fail spokesman on agriculture Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív raised the issue noting that the rules as they currently stand could potentially mean a 40 per cent cut in funding.

Wexford Creamery was in the news last month and remains in the news into the new year. Initially Glanbia Ingredients Ireland Limited (GIIL) welcomed the outcome of the vote held at the special general meeting of Wexford Milk Producers (WMP) last month where shareholders approved the sale of Wexford Creamery Ltd to GIIL.

However later in the month a firm representing a number of Wexford milk producers farmers wrote to all shareholders at Wexford Creamery advising them not to sign any 15-year milk supply agreements with Glanbia.
Then in a further twist Strathroy Dairies, one of Ireland’s oldest family dairies and a supplier of liquid milk to retailers throughout Ireland, has confirmed an interest in purchasing Wexford Creamery.

Interestingly in December Kiwi dairy farmers are now choosing Irish bulls. Last month ABS Ireland sent its first shipment of AI straws from their grassland programme to New Zealand. Ciaran O’Shea, dairy product specialist, noted: “The sires in this first historic shipment are Radney Rock and Hanrahan Victorious, which were both bred in County Cork where ABS Ireland have their headquarters.”

Schmallenberg could still be an issue next spring that was the warning of Teagasc last month. Irish sheep producers hoping that natural immunity might help protect their sheep from Schmallenberg virus may have had their hopes dashed according to Teagasc.

In December funding of €1.8m to 136 organisations involved in animal care and welfare services throughout the country was issued by the Department of Agriculture.

Also last month John Deere fans Peter Gaffney from Lusk in Dublin and Ned Furlong from Wexford are the Irish winners of the company’s European ‘biggest fan’ photographic competition, which has been running on the John Deere website since August and attracted more than 500 entries.

December also saw Slaney Foods outline its new disease monitoring system. Slaney has designed a system in its new abattoir that will enable the vets to record real-time information on the health of the animals and rely it back to farmers.

Teagasc announced last month the results of a recent grazing trial, which has confirmed that Jersey cows will make best use of swards containing high levels of perennial ryegrass.

Food and Drink Industry Ireland (FDII), the Ibec group that represents the food industry, In December launched a practical industry guide on labelling to help companies comply with the first major overhaul of Europe’s food labelling rules in 30 years.