Fourteen Irish cheeses honoured at International Cheese Awards
The Irish cheeses accumulated 69 awards between them at the 118th International Cheese Awards in Nantwich, Cheshire, UK.

Some 14 Irish cheeses were honoured at the International Cheese Awards, which took place in the cheese marquee at the Nantwich and South Cheshire Show.

Organisers of the awards said they had their biggest year to date, receiving an all-time high of over 4,600 entries from 274 exhibitors. Representatives from 31 different countries entered the competition.

Irish cheeses won eight trophies, 19 gold medals, 17 silver medals, 17 bronze medals and eight very highly commended awards from the 200 judges.

Mossfield Organic Farm, based in Birr, Co Offaly, was awarded The Waitrose Trophy for ‘‘Best Cheese in Specialist Cheesemakers’’. Other trophies went to Kerry, Glanbia and Carrigaline Cheese.

Reacting to the award, Ralph Haslam of Mossfield Organic Farm, said he was delighted with it, as it was a great boost for the company.

"It's really helps to raise the profile of the business and will allow us to expand our product range even further."

In business since 2004, with a 110 dairy cow herd, Mossfield supplies its products all around the world, including to the UK, Holland, North America and Dubai.

Gold medals were awarded to Glanbia, Kerry, Ornua, Cahill’s Farm Cheese, Old Irish Creamery, Dairygold, Mossfield, Cashel Blue, Green Pastures and Carrigaline, while silver medals went to Glanbia, Kerry, Ornua, Carbery, Mossfield, Dairygold, Carrigaline, Green Pastures and the Tipperary Cheese Co.

Speaking after the awards, Eimear O’Donnell, Bord Bia’s consumer dairy manager, said: “Irish cheese consistently stands up when judged against our overseas counterparts and the industry’s awards haul this year vindicates that and recognises the individual producer’s input. Bord Bia is confident that the Irish dairy sector’s reputation in terms of sustainability, quality and innovation will ensure it succeeds internationally as it realises its potential following the lifting of dairy quotas.”

Export value of Irish cheese

The export value of Irish cheese grew by around 5% to reach over €175m in 2014. The UK accounts for close to 60% of cheese exports, while strong increases were evident to international markets such as Japan, the US and Saudi Arabia. In terms of farmhouse cheese, some 50 cheesemakers now produce more than 150 types of cheese. The sector has continued to experience recent export growth, targeting 25 markets worth approximately €5m.

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Varadkar pledges income tax cuts and more forestry on farms
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has addressed tax equality and the role of agriculture in climate change in a speech as Fine Gael party leader.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has promised to achieve tax equality between self-employed and PAYE workers and singled out on-farm forestry and the modernisation of Bord na Móna as priorities to tackle climate change.

Speaking at the Fine Gael Árd Fheis in Dublin this Saturday, Taoiseach Varadkar mentioned existing tax and pension measures in favour of farmers and other self-employed workers, but added: "We're not done yet."

Drawing from the experience of Fine Gael members surrounding him on stage, he first addressed the "hopes and fears for the future" of Kevin, a farmer from Co Leitrim.

Full equality

"Now we want there to be full equality for the self-employed and businesspeople when it comes to income tax," he said. "There’s no reason why someone who is self-employed should pay more income tax than those of use who are PAYE."

The 2016 programme for government committed to increasing the earned income tax credit to €1,650 for the self-employed by 2018, but the recent Budget 2019 fell short of that, at €1,350.

As he seeks to extend the confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil, An Taoiseach pledged to close the gap if Fine Gael stayed in government.

He also promised to increase the point at which people pay the top rate of tax to €50,000 for a single person, up from €35,300 in Budget 2019, in the interest of "fairness" for those earning average incomes.

Transform some of our farms from carbon emitters into carbon sinks that produce timber

Taoiseach Varadkar said Ireland had to move from "laggard to leader" on climate change. "We must and we will meet our 2030 targets for carbon emissions and renewable energy and we’ll do this by transforming Bord na Móna into a green semi-state generating renewable energy and managing waste rather than generating carbon," he said.

Another key environmental measure will entail "investing in forestry to transform some of our farms from carbon emitters into carbon sinks that produce timber products which in turn help us to reduce plastics," he added.

Brexit

On Brexit, he supported the draft withdrawal agreement negotiated between the EU and the UK. "Let’s seal the deal and let’s get on to the next phase, which is managing the transition period and negotiating a new deep and close relationship with the UK," he said.

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Five reasons you need to be at Dairy Day
The Irish Farmers Journal's Dairy Day takes place in the Punchestown Event Centre from 9am on Tuesday 20 November.

1. Skills Hub

The Skills Hub will be running all day. It aims to showcase best practise and the efficiencies required to run a dairy farm in Ireland today.

2. Calf Shed Talks

There is no animal more important than the young dairy calf on a farm. Journal vet Tommy Heffernan has a packed schedule of practical demonstrations at the Calf Shed Talks.

3. Beyond The Parlour sessions

The Irish dairy industry is vibrant, growing and looking for new opportunities. Where is the future for added value in the dairy chain? What milk prices can farmers expect in five and 10 years time?

4. Goodie bag

Get your special show bag with the new Irish Dairy Farmer magazine in it.

5. KT-approved

And, best of all it is a Knowledge Transfer-approved event.

Farmers protest fresh forestry expansion in Co Leitrim
Protesters call for environmental study before any more conifers are planted in the county.

Members of the IFA and the Save Leitrim campaign group staged a joint protest at the site of a new forestry plantation in Carrigallen, Co Leitrim, on Saturday.

IFA Leitrim chair James Gallagher told the Irish Farmers Journal that a farm is being planted with conifers at the site, and the IFA will display the same opposition to any new such projects in Co Leitrim until an independent study of the impact of forestry expansion in the county is completed.

"A resolution from Leitrim went to the IFA national council in September asking that there would be no new plantations without a full environmental survey," Gallagher said.

Major concern

After the national council endorsed the resolution at the time, IFA president Joe Healy said that the level of afforestation in recent years, particularly by non-farmers and outside investors, was of major concern to local farmers and rural communities.

"Leitrim has 18.9% of forest cover at the moment, the highest in the country," Gallagher said. When hilltops and other areas unsuitable for planting are taken out, he estimated that half the agricultural land in the county is now planted.

"Leitrim will not be the carbon sink for the whole country," he said.

He added that the IFA was still lobbying for the independent study to be carried out, but this had not started yet.

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Afforestation payments to non-farmers doubled in past two years