New IFA Sheepskin Chair Looks To Make Its Mark From The First Doors On Key Issues
During the week, Agriland traveled to Doonkelly in County Leitrim to speak with the newly elected Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) President Kevin Comiskey.
The Leitrim native served as vice-chairman of the committee before his appointment as manager last month.
Comiskey farms alongside his son Jason, where they operate both suckler and sheep systems, with up to 20 suckler cows and 120 ewes on the farm.
The goal of from Agriland However, the visit was to find out what Kevin’s plans are for the coming months and what are the main issues he intends to fight for, in the sheep farmers’ corner.
Some of the key issues Kevin spoke about during our visit to his farm in North Leitrim were: dog attacks on sheep, wool prices, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the import of meat sheep and sheep prices.
Talk to Agriland, Kevin said: “Sheep farming is a very vulnerable sector. Farmers here in Leitrim face challenges that other counties don’t, but overall I fully recognize the difficulties faced by sheep farmers across the country – as I am myself.
“The sector depends on direct payments for 130% of family farming income, yet it is a key contributor to quality food production, environmental ambitions and critically important social and economic activity in some of the most difficult agricultural regions of the country.
“Greater supports are needed more than ever with the higher production costs seen on farms. Teagasc estimates that the increase in fertilizer costs alone will add €10-12/ewe to the cost of production on some farms.
One of the first problems the new sheep chair wants to tackle is dog attacks on sheep.
Kevin said: “An issue facing farmers right now, and which comes up every year, is dog attacks on sheep and the whole issue of dog control.
“Since becoming chairman of the sheep council I have had many calls across the country from farmers in Wexford, Dublin and Mayo.
“Recently here near my home in Leitrim a colleague suffered a horrific attack on his flock of sheep which resulted in 25 deaths and only for the farmer who caught the dogs in the act, the whole herd [of 65 ewes] would have been destroyed.
“We [the IFA] are seeking to meet with Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue and Welfare, Rural and Community Development Minister Heather Humphreys to settle this issue once and for all.
“We have established a clear list of needs for this area, which includes:
- A single national database for all dogs in the country that identifies the person responsible for the dog;
- More appropriate penalties for those found guilty of non-compliance with dog owner microchip requirements;
- More appropriate penalties for those who do not have their dog under their control at all times and for those whose dogs are identified as disturbing/attacking livestock;
- Additional means to enforce and ensure compliance with the obligations of dog owners.
“Once again we have relaunched our ‘No dogs allowed“, because we have to take this position.
“It has been on the agenda for many years and it is my ambition this year to fix the problem once and for all and put in place penalties and legislation because farmers cannot continue to losing sheep every year to dog attacks.
“A farmer in Wexford called me last week who had ewes carrying triplets in the shed and a dog came in and attacked and killed them, and he had no choice but to take the dog out which didn’t have a microchip with no way to trace its owners. This is a terrible situation for any farmer.
“CAP funding is far from sufficient”
Moving on to the new CAP, Kevin said the funding provided fell short of his and the IFA’s expectations.
He said: “The funding provided in the next CAP and the advanced strategic plan did not come close to being adequate and was well in line with what we were looking for in the IFA.
“For the sheep sector, we were looking for €30/ewe. It is well below and the €12/ewe proposed leaves one million ewes out of the financing range.
“I am extremely disappointed with the allocation of funds. It will only provide funding for 1.7 million ewes, which is less than what is provided for under the current Sheep Welfare Scheme (SWS).
“Funding has been reduced from 25 to 20 million euros. €30/ewe is to be provided to all ewes nationwide under the new Sheep Improvement Scheme (SIS) which will come into effect in 2023 and this is a key IFA policy that we will continue actively.
” A target 30€/ewe payment is crucial to support the sector; promote generational renewal; and ensure that sheep farming remains a significant and positive contributor in the areas where it is practiced.
Kevin added that the only bright spot was that the updated IFA-guaranteed reference periods for 2021 and 2022 of the existing SWS are worth an additional €5m to farmers in the scheme over the next two years.
Collapse of the wool sector
Speaking about the collapse of the wool sector, Kevin said: “I am looking to meet Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity Pippa Hackett about the collapse of the wool trade. oldest boy.
“Farmers need to be compensated in the future for wool. We had asked for shearing to be included in the SIS to deal with the collapse of the wool market.
“The review of alternative markets/outlets for wool is currently underway and critically for sheep farmers this process must ensure a return to farmers to recognize the quality and value of the product and the enormous work and the costs associated with what is a vital animal measure of health and welfare on all sheep operations.
“Sheep farmers need to be protected from the volatility of global wool markets and rewarded for applying this practice on their farms.
“Wool is classified as waste but has multiple uses with extremely high environmental credentials, which must be reflected in farmers’ incomes.”
Kevin acknowledged that last year was a good year for sheep prices, but they came from a very bad place to start.
He said: “I certainly agree that last year was a good year in terms of prices for the sheep sector, and Covid-19 probably contributed to that – in that people were at home and more cooking at home has been made, for example due to closures – [and] it has helped prices here in the domestic market.
“The lamb price has been good and even though it’s static now, hopefully it will continue to push as spring lamb approaches.
“Furthermore, the significantly reduced volumes of lamb imported from New Zealand in particular and the disruption of UK supplies entering our key EU market have provided a very strong base for Irish sheepmeat.
“This clearly highlights the impact of trade deals on Irish farmers and the importance of protecting the EU market for EU farmers. Any allocation of additional quota for sheepmeat imports under existing or new trade agreements with the EU must be resisted.
“Also, I would be optimistic about the price of lamb in the short term anyway, but it’s important to remember that it comes from a very bad place and is only at the level where he should be.
“I hope the prices will rise again in the future.”
On the matter of importing lamb, Kevin said this is definitely an area he wants to explore further and see more transparency.
He said: ‘I personally witnessed and recorded the import of an Irish meat processor just over 12 months ago.
“We have asked Minister McConalogue for a full assessment of the checks and balances carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture [Food and the Marine]the FSAI [Food Safety Authority of Ireland] and Bord Bia to protect the integrity of our products and labels.
“Sheep farmers rightly question the purpose of the current practice of sheep factories importing live lambs and sheepmeat into a country that is a net exporter of sheepmeat.”
Exporting breeding sheep to Northern Ireland is also one of Kevin’s priorities, along with increasing the premium for QA lamb to 30c/kg and providing Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) as a payment option to sheep farmers from factories and markets.
Kevin said this is an area where the IFA has met with Meat Industry Ireland and has spoken directly with sheep processing plants.