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Mairead meets Horse Care Ireland on Brexit concerns


Mairead McGuinness, MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament, met with Premier Horse Care Ireland (Ballinasloe) to discuss the organisation’s concerns over the potential impact Brexit may have on the sector, and other current issues, in Kiltoom, Co. Roscommon, recently.

Pictured (left to right) are: John Joe Fitzpatrick (Chairman of Premier Horse Care Ireland, O’Brien’s Bridge, County Clare), Mairead McGuinness (MEP for the Midlands North West and Vice-President of the European Parliament), and Premier Horse Care Ireland committee members Catriona Higgins (Williamstown, County Galway) and Denis Bracken (Ballycumber, County Offaly).


Fitzmaurice in warning to Irish Water: ‘Don’t use farmers as scapegoats’



Deputy Fitzmaurice says bills for water usage for farmers, issued by Irish Water, have increased substantially due to a new charging system which the TD claims “breaks an agreement made with the farming organisations some years ago.”

  Deputy Fitzmaurice is calling on farmers to check their bills to ensure that they are not being overchanged.

  “Farmers who have land in a number of locations heretofore paid one service charge for the meter, and then they paid for water usage at all the locations. But now, Irish Water, who have taken over the billing for farmers – as they are treated as commercial accounts – is apparently charging the service charge for all the locations and it is adding hundreds of euro to the water bills for some farmers.

  “This flies in the face of an agreement which was made with the farm organisations some years ago. This is a totally unacceptable move, and farmers should not be used to replace funds that the Government will have to raise in order to pay for water services” he said.

  Deputy Fitzmaurice said he has contacted Irish Water about this situation.

  “I am asking farmers to look carefully at their water bills to see if this extra change has been applied, and I will be following up this as a matter of the most extreme urgency with Irish Water. We cannot allow a situation whereby farmers are used as scapegoats to raise revenue” he concluded.


Changes to Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection funding scheme


IFA Flood Project Chairman Padraic Joyce has welcomed changes made by outgoing Minister for the OPW, Sean Canney to the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection funding scheme. Padraic Joyce said IFA raised this issue some time ago and had presented proposals to the Minister.

  He said farmers and farmland had been discriminated against in the cost-benefit analysis as the calculation of benefits to determine whether funding was made available for flood defence works, or measures to alleviate flooding, did not account for the agricultural losses resulting from flooding.

  The main changes of relevance are that the upper financial threshold has been increased from €500,000 to €750,000 per project, and for the first time farmyards/buildings will be included as commercial premises in all categories.

  Padraic Joyce said it is important that the cost-benefit analysis recognises agricultural losses as projects were being turned down on the basis that they did not meet the old criteria.

  IFA will be meeting the OPW over the coming days for further clarification on the issues involved and to ensure that projects previously turned down will now get the go-ahead.

  Padraic Joyce acknowledged the work that Sean Canney has done in his year-long tenure at the OPW and said IFA looks forward to working with the new Minister, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran.


Live exports up 43% on last year – IFA


IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said live exports are performing well this year and providing a major boost to cattle farmers.

  He said a total of 116,000 head of livestock have already been exported up to 20th of May, an increase of 43% on last year. Angus Woods said the benefit of every one of these exports has been reflected in higher and more competitive cattle prices in marts all across the country.

  IFA is totally committed to maintaining a strong live export trade, which Angus Woods said is essential for price competition and providing market outlets for livestock. He also welcomed the strong commitment Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has shown to live exports.



Lamb price stability vital for sheep sector – IFA


At a meeting in Dublin recently between the IFA and MII (Meat Industry Ireland) along with the main lamb factories, IFA National Sheep Committee Chairman John Lynskey said IFA highlighted the need for strong viable lamb prices along with price stability at this important time of the season.

  He warned that price shocks must be avoided.  “Irish processors are the dominant export players in the EU market at this time of year and have a major responsibility not to undermine the market.”

  John Lynskey said with the majority of Irish lamb now being cut and retail packed by the meat plants as opposed to being sold as carcases, the factories are in a much stronger position to avoid price shocks and maintain stability.

  The IFA sheep leader said the factories maintaining confidence at farm level is crucial. “Strong stable prices are critical to farm incomes, which are very low on sheep farms. The latest Teagasc National Farm Income survey shows that sheep farm incomes are only €16,011 per annum, of which direct payments account for over 111%.”

  John Lynskey said it is important that farmers select lambs carefully and sell as they become fit. He said factories also have an important role to play in this in terms of price stability and ensuring that carcase weights are moved up appropriately as the season progresses.

Ireland performs well in use of antibiotics in farming



The use of antibiotics in Irish livestock is among the lowest in Europe and this puts Irish agriculture in a good position to deal with EU legislation on potential restrictions on antibiotic use in food animals which is due to be introduced over the next three years.

  This was the view of veterinarian Fergal Morris in an address to the MSD Animal Health conference.

“A recent EU report shows that Ireland is near the bottom of the European league in the use of antibiotics in animals. Irish farmers use one-eighth the amount of antibiotics used by farmers in Spain on a per animal basis, which is the highest user of antibiotics in the EU.

  “Farmers in Italy use seven times more antibiotics than their Irish counterparts while the average German farmer uses three times more than the average Irish producer,” said Fergal Morris, who is director of ruminant business with MSD Animal Health.

  He said the lower usage of antibiotics in Ireland is a reflection of our grass-based milk, beef and sheep production and the relatively low levels of intensive pig and poultry production.

  “Even Ireland’s pig and poultry producers are much lower users of antibiotics than their EU counterparts. This is due to the strict biosecurity policies which are used by producers combined with a big increase in recent years in vaccination of pigs and poultry to protect against the major disease threats,” he said.

  He referred to the strides across many EU countries to curb antibiotic use in farm animals.  For example, antibiotic use by farmers in the Netherlands has been reduced by more than 50% over the past seven years. However, overall antibiotic use is still around 50% higher than in Ireland.

  “The massive increase by Irish farmers in the use of vaccines to prevent disease has been the big story in Irish farming. The use of preventative vaccines has more than doubled in the past decade and this sets a solid platform for healthier animals which require less antibiotic intervention,” said Fergal Morris.

Farm incomes down!



‘Average Roscommon farmer’ sees income fall to €24,000


According to a National Farm Survey conducted by Teagasc, the average farm income fell by 9% in 2016.

  According to the report, the average farmer is now earning €24,060, with low prices being paid in the last year or so.

  Reacting, IFA President Joe Healy said that the report highlights the critical importance of both price returns and direct supports for farm enterprises.

  Mr. Healy said there is now an urgent need for a continued focus on both of these issues by the Minister for Agriculture and Irish Government.

  According to the report, dairy farmers experienced a drop of €10,000, or 17% in income, due to low milk prices in 2016.

Mr. Healy commented: “The Teagasc figures highlight the critical importance of the industry returning a strong price to farmers when the market can support it. Based on the current positive market outlook, IFA is clear that co-ops now have scope to increase the May milk price by up to 2c/l.”

  The IFA President also highlighted the very difficult year that farmers had experienced in the tillage sector, with reduced prices and yields, and an increase in production costs. Overall, tillage farmers experienced a 10% drop in incomes.

  He said: “The figures show clearly the need for an urgent focus in the Department of Agriculture on a scheme for tillage farmers who lost crops in the 2016 harvest. The Minister indicated he would introduce a scheme for these farmers months ago, and he must instruct his officials to make it happen immediately.”

  Incomes in the drystock sectors were relatively stable in 2016, with increases in direct payments largely offsetting lower price returns, as measures in the Rural Development Programme have been fully implemented.

EU Food Safety Commissioner and IFA discuss Brazilian meat ‘scandal’


When IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods met the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis in Dublin recently, Mr. Woods reiterated the IFA’s strong views on the Brazilian meat “scandal.”

  Mr. Woods said: “I made it very clear to Commissioner Andriukaitis that this scandal proved there are systematic failures in the controls in Brazil and the EU can no longer credibly rely on the authorities there to certify meat exports to the EU.”

  The IFA Livestock chairman met with Commissioner Andriukaitis along with Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness at a citizens’ dialogue meeting on health and food safety in Dublin Castle. He added that the Commissioner acknowledged the seriousness of the issues for the EU meat market and that there were major problems in Brazil.

  Angus Woods said: “Since the ‘weak flesh scandal’ story broke in the Brazilian media on March 17th of this year, the real story regarding the sheer extent and political involvement is only beginning to emerge in Brazil.”

  The IFA Livestock leader added that the real story and details behind this scandal have not fully emerged.

  He said: “It is incredible that the EU Commission was only made aware of the issue through media reports. Attempts by the Brazilian authorities to try to confine the scandal to a limited number of establishments are not credible, when the reports indicate that the government inspection and control authorities were operating fraudulently and taking bribes from processors to buy certificates.”

  The IFA Livestock leader said the EU Commission must withdraw from trade talks with Mercosur while this investigation in Brazil is ongoing.


Farm safety report highlights need for extra vigilance – Murphy


Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon/Galway Eugene Murphy says a new report, which reveals that farming is the occupation with the highest risk for fatalities, will come as no surprise to farmers across the western region.

  The findings published this week in ‘Risk Taking and Accidents on Irish Farms’, puts the fatality rate for farming at nearly ten times the average across occupations over the 2009-2015 period.

  “The figures in this report make for worrying reading and it is clear that a lot more action is needed to increase health and safety awareness on farms.

  “The large number of farm fatalities witnessed over that six-year period is simply not acceptable – every year the farming and agriculture industry represent the sector with the highest number of work-related deaths. One hundred and thirty eight people have died in farm accidents over the past seven years, with 11 fatalities in the agri sector in 2017 alone.

  “Farmers need to be particularly vigilant in the summer months as the working day is longer, and with the summer holidays there can be more children in and around the farm. 

  “It is vital that the Government sufficiently fund information and health and safety campaigns, specifically tackling the most vulnerable groups.

  “Fianna Fáil has consistently argued for the rollout of better education and awareness for farm safety. The high number of farm fatalities must be reduced and the relevant departments must step up to the mark,” concluded Deputy Murphy.


Knowledge Transfer online system offers abysmal service to farmers – Murphy


Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon/Galway Eugene Murphy has described the Knowledge Transfer (KT) online system for farmers as abysmal and chaotic following a series of false starts.

  Deputy Murphy says: “The original deadline of 31st of May for the Knowledge Transfer online system was a complete and utter farce. After repeated requests from many organisations the deadline for the scheme has now been extended to 31st of July.

  “These online portals for submitting farm improvement plans which for livestock farmers includes a breeding plan, grassland management plan, farm safety plan and profit monitor and the veterinary herd health plan were already delayed for months before the system went live. The system then repeatedly crashed and only eventually went live on May 16th. I also understand that the online system for booking meetings with the Department of Agriculture has also crashed. It simply beggars belief and has descended into an abysmal mess,” said Deputy Murphy.

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