Exclusive: farmers in line for massive land penalty
Just three years after being forced to pay millions back to Brussels, another potential land eligibility time bomb is ticking.

Fears are growing that the European Commission will impose a multimillion euro penalty on Ireland.

The Irish Farmers Journal understands Commission auditors have raised concerns over land claimed by Irish farmers for their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) which may not be eligible.

This follows a recent audit conducted by the Commission comparing satellite imagery and maps with on-farm visits.

In 2013, the Commission hit Ireland with a fine of €181m for claiming ineligible land. This was eventually negotiated down to one-third of that figure, with the Commission warning that it would take a much harder line should Ireland re-offend.

Farmers were forced to repay between €10m and €20m in BPS clawback but the State carried most of the bill.

This issue again relates to what the Commission states as being eligible land and what farmers are declaring in their BPS applications.

The current issue was raised by Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice, who tabled parliamentary questions on the matter.

“This could lead to widespread land abandonment in areas where we are struggling to keep farmers on the land,” he said.

“If the EU has issues with scrub and rock in farms from Donegal to Kerry, then it raises serious questions over the long-term viability of these farms.”

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has downplayed the significance of the development, saying audits are a regular occurrence.

“The Commission has advised my Department of its findings and my officials are currently preparing a response.

"These communications will continue as part of a bilateral process over the coming months, and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment at this stage on any particular details as this is very much the beginning of what will be a very thorough deliberative process.”

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In pictures: From 1988 to 2018 - Iveragh Mart celebrates 30 years
Iveragh Mart started out in the 1980s from a seed planted by young farmers on Valentina Island. This week it celebrated the 30th anniversary of its opening.

A crowd of over 400 people gathered at Iveragh Co-op Mart in Caherciveen to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its opening.

Mike Kissane has managed the mart since it opened and he gave a brief run-down of the mart's history: “It’s mainly due to some young farmers on Valentina Island who planted the seed. A group came together in the early 1980s and in 1983 they canvassed local farmers and business people selling shares at £100. They raised £50,000 in a week.

Mike Kissane, manager of Iveragh Co-op Mart, Caherciveen, with staff Helen Kissane, Emily Ahern, Noreen O'Mahony and Bernie O'Sullivan.

Three years later they purchased a 12-acre sight outside of Caherciveen for £28,000. A lot of work was done by Maurice Colbert, ICOS mart secretary at the time, and John O'Donoghue TD."

Share drive

This enabled them to access funding from the Department of Agriculture and the European agricultural fund. A second share drive took place in 1988 and there are now around 400 shareholders.

At the 30th anniversary of Iveragh Co-operative Mart in Caherciveen were Michael Riordan, Breda Moore, Mel Moore, Mary Adair, mart chair Nially O'Shea, Padraig Brennan, David Brennan.

When questioned abut the highs and lows of the mart, Mike said: “Having to close because of foot and mouth back in 2001 was the lowest point, while reopening was definitely a high. Dealing with BSE was tough too, I’ll remember that for a while.”

He addded: “Location is our biggest disadvantage. It’s at least an hour drive to access a decent road network. That adds cost to haulage. But we always have buyers from the midlands coming down. They see that we are surrounded by mountains and sea, but they’re gobsmacked when they see the quality of the cattle.”

Owner of the champion male weanling at the Iveragh Co-operative Mart's 30th anniversary show and sale was Michael Townes from Valentia island. He is seen here receiving his prize from mart chair Nially O'Shea and sponsor Tomas Lester from Southern Milling.

Achievement

Nially O'Shea, mart chair, said of the mart's 30 years in business “is a mighty achievement. The greatest improvement we’ve seen here over the years is the quality of the stock and it’s all down to breeding. We brought out a scheme here in 2001 to give loans to farmers to buy pedigree stock bulls and that was a great success. That has been extended to breeding heifers and ewes in recent years”.

John O'Shea, Foilmore, with his champion weanling heifer, receives his prize from mart chair Nially O'Shea and sponsor Tomas Lester from Southern Milling. John's daughter, Celine, is the Kerry Rose in this year's Rose of Tralee.

He also commented on the age profile within the industry: “The rising age profile of farmers is a challenge here, but that’s the same for every mart.”

Colm Mangan, Dromid, owner of the best pen of ewe lambs receiving his prize from mart chair Nially O'Shea at the 30th anniversary show and sale at Iveragh Co-operative Mart, Caherciveen.

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Good week, bad week: the winners and losers in Irish farming
We look at who had a good week and who a bad week in Irish farming circles.

It was a good week for

  • Grain prices, with demand for native grain driving price offers that are significantly higher than last year's base price levels.
  • Dairy farmers, with most processors increasing milk prices for July supplies.
  • The chief executive of FBD, Fiona Muldoon, after an investigation into internal allegations made against her were not upheld.
  • Farmers hoping to get fertiliser out later this year, as the deadline for slurry and fertiliser spreading was extended.
  • It was a bad week for

  • Live exports, with the collapse of the Turkish lirathreatening the busy autumn weanling sales.
  • Pig farming, three protests have been held in the last week by the IFA pig committee, which says it islosing €6,000/week.
  • A farmer in west Yorkshire, who's Fendt tractor ended up on a train track.
  • Sheep farmers, with the highest kill on record causing frustration due to delays.
    The farmer's daily wrap: heavy rain and phosphorus limits
    Here is your news round-up of the five top farming stories and the weather outlook for Saturday 18 August.

    Weather forecast

    Saturday is forecast to be a warm and humid day, with temperatures reaching 21-26°C throughout Munster and Leinster, slightly less elsewhere.

    Thicker cloud across parts of north Ulster and north Connacht will bring outbreaks of rain and drizzle during the day, but it'll be generally dry elsewhere.

    Met Éireann has said that heavier rain will develop along the Atlantic seaboard during the evening.

    A status yellow rainfall warning is in place for Saturday night, as high-intensity rainfall is forecast over a relatively short period of time for many areas. The rain is associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto.

    In the news

  • Aurivo and Dairygold have announced their milk prices for July manufacturing supplies.
  • Significant increases in concentrate feed use this year could push many farmers above their phosphorus limits for next year.
  • The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture will not reconvene for an emergency sitting to discuss the fodder situation on farms and will instead sit on 4 September.
  • It’s been another difficult week for shares in Aryzta, despite the group announcing an €800m capital raise.
  • Met Éireann has issued a status yellow rainfall warning as Ireland looks set to get the tail end of tropical Storm Ernesto.
  • Coming up this weekend

  • Good week, bad week
  • 30 years of Iveragh Co-op Mart in Cahersiveen
  • Darren Carty looks at UK beef imports and exports