‘We are sick and tired of being lectured by animal rights extremists’

The next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must be designed on the principle that farmers “who go the extra mile get paid for doing so”, Patrick Kent, president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has warned.

Kent was addressing the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed and members of the ICSA National Executive at the association’s AGM and annual conference, in Abbeyleix, Co. Laois.

Earlier at the event, Monaghan man Edmund Graham, was elected as the association’s new Beef Committee chairman; while Limerick man Seamus Sherlock was re-elected as Rural Development Committee chairman.

The Future of Food and Farming‘ was the overarching theme of the conference, at which Kent outlined the association’s key requirements from the Government on its approach to CAP and its funding after Brexit, climate action and international trade deals.

The president stressed the importance of CAP reforms “that recognise the real contribution of farmers and rewards them accordingly”.

To achieve this Kent said: “ICSA is calling on the Government to do everything in its power to ensure that the CAP is fully funded.

We can’t shirk the fact that the UK is leaving and the funding gap must be filled. That means Ireland must step up to the plate.

The next CAP, Kent insisted, needs to bring about “better ways of putting money in the hands of less intensive suckler farmers through a meaningful agri-environment scheme”.

This should be focused on climate change deliverables – as well as profitable for participant farmers, he added.

Kent was scathing of policy makers “who try to blame farmers for climate change”, highlighting the 2017 Carbon Majors Report, which indicates that 71% of global emissions are accounted for by just 100 fossil fuel companies.

“Farmers are actually helping through carbon sequestration. We are sick and tired of being lectured by vested interests, by misguided environmentalists and by animal rights extremists,” Kent said.

We stand ready to implement climate change programmes. But the day of expecting farmers to work for free must end.

Kent also suggested that proposals from Brussels to reduce biofuels produced from European crops is “incomprehensible” if they are serious about climate change or if they want to ensure a better future for EU farmers.

‘Fifth quarter bonanza’

Kent said that a much broader strategy for sucklers is needed, noting: “There is no point in a €200 sticking plaster if suckler cow numbers go up and live exports go down.

“If we are serious about sucklers, factories must commit to paying more for heavy U grade carcasses. For that reason, I am calling for a review of the beef grid.

ICSA believes that it is now urgent to move to payment on meat yield and that farmers should get some of the benefits from the fifth quarter bonanza.

“It’s not about how many suckler cows we have; it’s about how much profit each suckler cow leaves.”

Kent reiterated ICSA’s opposition to any Mercosur trade deal that would bring vast quantities of extra beef in to Europe with continuing uncertainty about what will happen with UK markets arising from Brexit.

Addressing the decline in the live export of sheep, Kent called for the removal of the holding period prior to export which continues to frustrate the trade. He said he remains sceptical about the need for EID tagging for lambs going direct to factories.

Kent also called for the re-convening of the tillage forum.