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Minister Creed¿s Official Opening of the Tullamore Show and FBD Livestock Show

Sunday 12 August 2018

 

  • I am delighted and honoured to be asked to officially open this year’s Tullamore Show.   This is the largest and arguably the most important of the one-day events in the country’s annual shows calendar and I am delighted to see it continue to grow and strengthen.
  • Agricultural Shows such as Tullamore are very important events in the farming calendar. The show has evolved over time to accommodate a wide range of activities for both urban and rural people to enjoy. Community led events like this contribute fiscally, culturally and socially to rural areas.
  • I would like to acknowledge the work done by all involved in organising this event, from Chairperson, Brenda Kiernan, Vice-Chairperson, Rodney Cox to Secretary/Administrator, Freda Kinnarney.  The Show is the culmination of a great deal of voluntary work which represents the best of the co-operative spirit that is so innate to rural Ireland. I commend the many volunteers involved.
  • I also acknowledge the main sponsors, FBD, the dozens of other sponsors and those with trade stands and the various class exhibitors for their support and loyalty in helping to make Tullamore Show the success it has become. 
  • I am conscious of the contribution that cattle breeding makes to the long term profitability of the livestock sector. Pedigree breeders have shown great initiative and cooperation in working with the ICBF to help make Irish cattle breeding a world leader. My Department has a clear vision to grow the value of the beef and sheep sector up to 2025 which will benefit farm families across the country.
  • The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is the main support specifically targeted for the suckler sector, which provides Irish beef famers with some 300 million euro in funding over the current Rural Development Programme (RDP) period. The new Sheep Welfare Scheme is also providing in the region of € 20 million in funding an annual basis to this important sector.
  • Farming is at the centre of the rural economy, providing not only a safe sustainable food supply for a growing world population but also acting as custodians of the environment for this and future generations. This is never more evident as we look at the significant attendance here today.
  • As a sector, we face a number of key challenges together including Brexit, CAP reform and the challenge of Fodder supply for the winter ahead.

Brexit

  • On the issue of Brexit, I think it is fair to say that very few policy, business or financial decisions will be made over the coming months and years that will not be affected by Brexit in some way, either directly or indirectly. 
  • In order to help mitigate against the Brexit impacts, and to assist in reducing costs and improving competitiveness within the sector, I have introduced a range of budgetary measures which are aimed principally at helping reduce farm gate and business costs. 
  • These measures include the introduction of low-cost loan schemes for farmers and SMEs, additional support for Bord Bia and Teagasc, as well as new agri-taxation measures and increased funding under the Rural Development and Seafood Development Programmes. 
  • Most importantly, I am also of the view that a further effective way of mitigating the Brexit impacts is to expand our international trade opportunities, thereby reducing our exposure to the UK market.  Since becoming Minister, I have embarked on a number of overseas Trade Missions resulting in the opening of new markets such as China, Japan and the United States.  Trade Missions provide opportunities to enhance existing market access and develop contacts for industry.
  • I wish to assure you that I and the Government remain very focused on supporting the farming community and the agri-food sector through the challenges ahead. The Government will be firm in arguing that any agreement reached between the EU and the UK must protect key sectors of the Irish economy.

CAP post 2020

  • As we once again face into another reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, it comes against the backdrop of Brexit and other newer European priorities such as security, defence and migration.
  • The European Commission recently proposed a cut of some 5% for the next CAP in current prices.  This is unacceptable.
  • For rural communities, agriculture remains the bedrock of economic development and social viability.  The importance of CAP contributions to our agriculture sector and the wider rural economy cannot be under-estimated.  Direct payments account for, on average, 75% of all on-farm incomes. 
  • I will work with my colleagues in Europe to protect what we need to keep, and to change what we must change, to make sure that the policy meets the needs of today. 
  •  I have been actively engaging with my European counterparts on this issue.  Along with my colleagues from France, Spain, Finland, Portugal and Greece, I have called for the restoration of the CAP budget for the 2021 – 2027 period to current levels.  Up to 20 Member States have joined this alliance and we will continue to work together in an effort to build consensus on this point.

Fodder

  • 2018 has presented the agriculture community with some of the most challenging conditions in recent memory.  Thankfully some respite in the form of a return over the last while to our more normal summer weather with the recent rainfall providing conditions that will be beneficial in terms of the recovery of the growing season.
  • I and my Department have worked on a number of initiatives to assist farmers through this challenging period;
  • I formed a representative group, chaired by Teagasc, which includes stakeholders such as Co-ops, banks and farm bodies amongst others to coordinate advisory messages to farmers this summer around replenishing depleted stocks of fodder.
  • The group has delivered a range of initiatives to-date, including zero interest credit facilities by some co-ops to members to support the necessary purchase of feedstuffs and fertiliser for when the growth returns. The main banks have also highlighted a willingness to facilitate cash flow at farm level. Furthermore, practical advice is being shared across the group on dealing both with the current weather and on filling the significant fodder gap.
  • I met with Commissioner Hogan on the 24th July and briefed him on the impact of the ongoing dry spell on Irish Agriculture.   I asked the Commissioner to keep an open mind as regards measures that may be required and urged him to expedite consideration of my request for certain flexibilities on the GLAS scheme, which can assist in replenishing fodder stocks in advance of the winter period.
  • I also secured agreement from the Commissioner to pay higher advance payments this autumn. As a result, advances for Pillar 1 and 2 payments will be increased to 70% and 85% respectively, resulting in €260 million in additional cash flow for farmers at a vital time of the year.
  • I have also secured agreement from my colleague the Minister for Finance & Public, Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe TD to open a Fodder Production Incentive Scheme for Tillage Farmers. This will provide funding of € 2.75 million to encourage tillage growers to actively engage in the fodder market and maximise additional short term fodder production.
  • I have also engaged with my colleague the Minister for Planning, Housing and Local Government Eoghan Murphy TD, and can announce today that an extension of two weeks is additionally being provided to the period for application of chemical fertiliser and organic manures this year. This will allow application up to the 31st Sept and 31st October respectively and again maximise the opportunity for Autumn production.
  • The overall priority must be to conserve as much fodder for the coming winter as possible when the opportunity to do so arises and to take advantage of the resumption in growth that that is now taking place.
  • I want to take this opportunity here today to commend the stakeholders on the Fodder Co-ordination Group and all involved in the farming community for the way they are working together to navigate our way through what has been an exceptional series of weather events.

Farm Safety

  • Turning now to farm safety, statistics show that accidents on farms cause more workplace deaths than all other occupations combined.  Between 2008 and 2017, there were 210 fatal farm accidents, this is a shocking statistic.  So far this year, tragically, there have been 16 fatal farm accidents.  We must all do what we can to change this.
  • There is no individual action or organisation that can solve this difficult problem that impacts so negatively on so many lives each year.  We must all work together with the single goal of preventing accidents and therefore saving lives and minimising serious injuries.  After all, it is us as farmers and family members that will benefit from improvements in safety.
  • I encourage all of you here today to attend the Farm Safety Live Event to pick up some farm safety tips that you can apply on your farms.
  • Finally, I would like to wish everyone an enjoyable day.  Whatever activities you came here to partake in and watch, I hope you will remember your visit to the Show as a highlight of your summer.