Addressing Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and members of the ICSA national executive at the ICSA AGM on Portlaoise on Thursday, Kent said Brexit uncertainty, dismal farm incomes and the threat of looming trade deals have made expansion very risky.

"In light of Brexit uncertainty and the threat of further EU trade deals following CETA, farmers are simply producing too much beef," he said. “Basic economics tells us what happens when supply is too high for demand.”

I take exception to the culture of treating farmers like uneducated peasants

The president called for a complete review of Food Wise 2025, the Government's most recent roadmap for the agricultural sector which sets a target of increasing exports from €10bn to €19bn. He said this “could potentially bankrupt farmers if we believe that expansion of production will make us better off”.

Reducing numbers in the suckler herd

Kent also outlined the ICSA’s proposal to reduce numbers in the suckler cow herd: "Unlike others who proposed a now dismissed €200m scheme, ICSA proposes to reduce the number of suckler calves born by 20% for one fifth of the cost, at €40m."

He also slammed meat sector proposals to encourage one million extra lambs which, he said, would only collapse price.

The president said he also took exception to the culture of treating farmers like "uneducated peasants", expected to work 90% harder for no extra gain.

CAP reform

On reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Kent said that “simplification should mean paying farmers on time," adding that EU rules which prevent "thousands of farmers being paid their first instalment of their BPS every year" must be changed.

Kent reminded Minister Creed of the frustration of farmers on the ground at the continued delays in GLAS and AEOS payments, describing it as a "wholly unacceptable fiasco" which must never be repeated.

Finally, Mr Kent addressed the issue of the possible closure of the Regional Veterinary Labs, saying the ICSA would oppose any or all closures of the facilities as was demonstrated by ICSA members protesting at the lab in Knockalisheen, Co Clare, on Wednesday.

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