The Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) has set out a number of measures it wants the Government to implement to support the agricultural community of Ireland during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
The farm lobby group believes that there is enough support at EU-level for comprehensive supports for the food and agriculture sector.
CAP ‘already stretched’
It supports the message that this crisis cannot be fully tackled with the Common Agricultural Policy, of which they say is already stretched in terms of resources.
Edmond Phelan, president of the ICSA, said: “Limiting ourselves to the CAP means robbing Peter to pay Paul and that is a totally unworthy response to this devastating crisis, particularly as a society, now more than ever, needs farmers to stay strong and to stay viable.”
European Central Bank
The ICSA wants the government to look for extra funding from the European Central Bank (ECB) to support CAP for an extraordinary agricultural programme.
“The closure of marts, coupled with serious volatility in the beef and lamb markets, will play havoc with the cash flow on many farms at a time when money will be needed for fertiliser, meal, diesel and, shortly, for first cut silage.”
“Therefore, the Government should insist that the pillar banks offer a one-year re-payment holiday on farm and business loans. These re-payments should be added, without penalty, to the end of the loan and in the meantime, bank liquidity should be supported with equivalent money from the ECB, at zero interest. Vulture funds should also be forced to comply.” Phelan added.
Extraordinary Agricultural Programme
The ICSA is also calling for an extraordinary agricultural programme, a scheme that would put a “robust” crisis fund in place. They believe this could support a programme of Aids to Private Storage or Intervention buying for beef and lamb. They want this scheme to include a set price to ensure farmers do not experience a price drop.
“We should also examine the case for a price collapse support fund along the lines of BEAM but covering the sheep sector as well as the cattle sector.”
They are requesting for the programme to provide funding to promote fresh EU produced foods also.
Supporting farmers who are forced to self-isolate is also being insisted upon. “Farmers are extremely worried about how their farm will be managed if they get sick and it is clear that the €350/week payment will not pay for replacement labour at a busy time. There will also need to be flexibility around work permits, provided that precautions such as Covid-19 testing are done.”
Flexibility for schemes and testing
The farming lobby group wants a flexible approach around inspections and conditionality around EU schemes, and TB testing. “This must be led by the EU so that maximum use of remote sensing and a reduction in the percentage requirements for inspections are put in place. We cannot have a scenario where unnecessary farm inspections are taking place for fear of EU sanctions or delays in payments.”
“In relation to TB testing, ICSA supports farmers being able to delay the herd test where the farmer or vet has a reason to self-isolate and that this should be possible without sanctions on the farmer.”
“ICSA is insisting that such farmers should be able to continue to sell stock to a meat factory or feedlot and that prohibitions on buying in should be set aside for the moment.”
It is insisting that marts must be allowed to facilitate livestock sales through weighing and guaranteed payment services. “The closure of the mart is a serious blow to many farmers, and we want to ensure that marts are kept in business for the duration of the ban and to help farmers who are worried about secure payment. In addition, marts can make sure that AIM database requirements are fully complied with.”
Edmond Phelan stressed that live exports running smoothly is extremely important. “We note that over 35 NGOs, including Irish groups, are lobbying the EU for a ban on live exports. ICSA completely rejects this and is calling on all MEPs to stand with the farming community at this difficult time.”
“Live exports are absolutely vital at a time when whole markets for beef and lamb are being impacted and instead of playing politics, we need green lanes at borders to reduce any unnecessary delays.” the farm leader concluded.