Commenting on the Irish Examiner-ICMSA survey results published in today’s edition of that paper showing a “collapse” in farmer confidence, the President of ICMSA, Pat McCormack, said that findings reflected the unprecedented stress and pressures that were bearing down on the state’s farming sector. The survey showed that the percentage of farmers who felt ‘positive’ about farming has more than halved, falling from 66% a year ago to just 32% today. That was the most significant swing on what has been an annual question contained in the survey, now in its sixth year.
Mr. McCormack said the ongoing stress and threat of Brexit had taken a huge toll, while below cost-of-production beef prices and the general breakdown of the beef sector – which he said ICMSA had long warned about – was now adding another layer of pressure. Milk prices were unsatisfactory and had been cut again recently and unjustifiably in ICMSA’s opinion, while the signing of Mercosur and the Government’s willingness to cast farmers as cartoon ‘baddies’ on the issue of climate change had all contributed to levels of stress and low morale that he had not seen before.
It was time, said Mr. McCormack, for a ‘grassroots-up’ reform of farming and food production that recognised the world-beating sustainability of our farmers and began to refocus our food sector in a way that ensured that those working longest and hardest to produce that food – the farmer primary-producers – got a decent margin from their efforts and not the ‘crumbs’ that the other more powerful elements in the food chain were inclined to leave them – which was our present system.
IFA Raises Payment Concerns with Dept at Charter of Rights Meeting
Speaking at a Charter of Rights meeting with the Department of Agriculture this week, the IFA Deputy President Brian Rushe said it’s absolutely essential that the maximum number of applicants in tranche 19 of TAMS are approved as soon as possible to provide certainty to farmers who are planning to carry out work.
IFA Rural Development Chairman Michael Biggins welcomed confirmation that payment of the ANC balancing payment will commence next week.
He stressed the importance of paying the remaining farmers as soon as they meet their stocking density requirements, which the Dept confirmed happens on a weekly basis. Farmers will be paid as soon as they meet the required stocking density, which in some cases will run to the end of the year.
Michael Biggins also called on the Dept to pay the ANC to farmers who omitted in error to tick the ANC box on their BPS application this year. “A system where a farmer has to ‘opt out’ rather the ‘opt in’ would ensure there are fewer errors when submitting applications,” he said.
IFA Deputy President Brian Rushe welcomed the payment of the BPS balancing payment which commenced this week. “The Dept also confirmed the issue around transfer of entitlement, which held up payments of around 1,000 farmers, has been resolved for most at this stage and the remaining ones will be resolved in the next week,” he said.
IFA National Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden has welcomed DAFM facilitation of farmers who made ‘Draft applications’ to BEEP-S scheme and who had operated under the impression they were participating in the scheme by carrying out measures on their farms. IFA had raised this issue directly with the Department of Agriculture and the acceptance of these farmers into the scheme is the right decision.
Regarding the Beef Finishers Payment, Brendan Golden again called for cattle exported for slaughter in the reference period to be paid on from the surplus in the Beef Finishers Payment fund.
IFA Launches Guide to Personal Insolvency Arrangements
IFA National Farm Business Chair Rose Mary McDonagh and Martin Stapleton, Chairman of the IFA Debt Support Service, have launched a Guide to Personal Insolvency Arrangements (PIA).
IFA Debt Support Service was established following the last recession to provide specific support to farmers in arrears.
The confidential service is comprised of an experienced team of IFA volunteers working with professional support to provide assistance to IFA members in financial difficulty.
Martin Stapleton said IFA has worked with over 500 farmers over the last few years. While the numbers in difficulty are reducing, recent weeks have seen an increase in activity from vulture funds since the COVID-19 Payment Breaks came to an end.
“This guide is available on IFA’s website and will serve as a useful resource for farmers in arrears seeking to protect their family home and farm land,” he said.
A Personal Insolvency Arrangement (PIA) is a debt resolution mechanism outlined in the Personal Insolvency Act, which acts as an insolvency solution for people with unsecured and secured debt.
Rose Mary McDonagh added that a PIA can provide a debtor with protection from their creditors and on completion, a debtor will return to solvency.
At present, the Oireachtas is considering one of two Bills which will reform the area of personal insolvency and amend the current eligibility requirements for a PIA. Rose Mary McDonagh said the definition of relevant debt should be expanded to include debt prior to 2015, and debt secured in or over a debtor’s income reliant/core asset.
The IFA Debt Support Service can be contacted, in confidence, at 1890 924 853.
EU Must Complete an Impact Assessment of Green Strategies
Speaking after a meeting of European Farm Leaders (COPA) with EU Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans yesterday, IFA President Tim Cullinan said that the EU must complete a full impact assessment of the EU Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies.
“I told the Commissioner a full impact assessment is needed to determine how much implementing these strategies will cost,” he said.
“Frans Timmermans has threatened to withdraw the Commission’s own CAP proposal if it doesn’t take more account of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies. Yet he has no idea how much these strategies will cost or who will pay for them,” he said.
“People are quoting all these targets without any consideration for their impact on output or on production costs of farmers. Farmers cannot be left to carry the can on this,” he said.
“We also need Teagasc to do an assessment of the impact in Ireland. We are currently deep in discussions on the Agrifood 2030 strategy, but again we have a data vacuum,” he said.
“It’s incredible that the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture has examined the impact of ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy on farm incomes, output and trade and neither the EU nor Ireland has,” he said.
“The US report predicts that as a result of the strategy, farm incomes would be reduced by 16%. This is as a consequence of the expected loss of production by 12% across the EU which would not be offset by the 17% increase in market prices.”
“If these measures were implemented, the report predicts a loss in output at an EU level which would cause exports to fall by 20% and imports would increase by 2%. The knock-on effect of these changes in trade is predicted to increase the cost of food by €132 per person in the EU.”
“If these figures are correct, they would be devastating for European farmers. Yet the EU Commission doesn’t know, or won’t tell us, what their assessment of the impact will be,” he said.