Science not populism must be to the fore of pesticide debate – McGuinness
Ahead of a vote in the EU Parliament on Wednesday next, Mairead McGuinness MEP has said there is a danger EU pesticide policy could be over politicised.

EU pesticide policy is in danger of being over politicised as “growing populist” calls seeks to ban or phase out all agrochemicals.

Mairead McGuinness MEP said scientific rigour must be to the fore rather than taking place to opinion.

Her comments come ahead of a vote on Wednesday 16 January in Strasbourg on a report which outlines the position of the European Parliament on pesticide policy.

Transparency

The report covers a number of areas, including increased transparency in the approval system for agrochemicals and calling for a clamp down on fake and illegal pesticides entering the EU.

McGuinness said, despite the significant scientific knowledge in Ireland and the wider EU on plant protection products, there were calls for their ban without thinking possible consequences.

Glyphosate

She said: “Recently, the debate has focused on individual plant protection products, such as glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round-Up, a commonly used weed killer.

“We need to give consideration to the future of food production and how plant protection products fit into a sustainable, environmentally friendly system, rather than starting from the position that the use of PPPs carry huge risks and that they can be done without.”

Consequences

One area up for discussion is the banning of products for desiccation. Such a proposal would have major consequences for the Irish tillage industry if adopted.

"Desiccation of crops is sometimes necessary in Ireland. This report fails to take into account our temperate climate and wet summers, which require the use of plant protection products as a desiccant,” McGuinness said.

Tighter rules

She highlighted that the EU countries were continuing to tighten rules on pesticide use in line with recommendations and research from EU bodies.

“Last year, the EU banned the outdoor use of certain insecticides – neonicotinoids – as a result of a study from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) showing that these agrochemicals represent a risk to wild pollinators and honey bees.

"The EU's authorisation procedure for plant protection products is one of the most stringent in the world," McGuinness concluded.

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Beef and dairy bosses demand Brexit action from Creed
Imposing tariffs on exports would "cripple trade", meat and dairy factory representatives have warned.

Beef and dairy bosses braced for a hard Brexit have handed a list of demands to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

With 65 days remaining to salvage a Brexit deal, the nightmare scenario of a no-deal is becoming ever more likely.

A delegation including Aurivo’s Aaron Forde, ABP’s Martin Kane, Larry Murrin of Dawn Farms Foods, Cormac Healy of Meat Industry Ireland and Conor Mulvihill of Dairy Industry Ireland, met with Minister Creed on Tuesday.

Dairy co-ops want dual British-Irish status for Northern Ireland milk, export refunds and other trade supports. They called for a freeze on tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit and direct income aid for farmers.

Meat factory representatives warned that if tariffs are imposed on exports to the UK “it would cripple trade”, with the additional danger of sterling devaluation in a no-deal outcome.

They called for extra resources to ensure speedy border checks and increased ferry capacity and routes for direct shipping to the continent.

While European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan reassured farmers Brussels is poised to swoop to their aid, a Commission spokesman confirmed a hard border is inevitable unless the British reach an agreement with the EU or delay their withdrawal.

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EU 'stands ready' to support farmers - Hogan
European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has assured farmers that Europe is planning for all possible outcomes from Brexit negotiations.

European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has moved to reassure farmers that the EU stands ready to intervene in markets to protect prices in the event of a hard Brexit.

“We have to prepare for the worst. The European Union stands ready to help Irish and EU farmers in the event of a hard Brexit,” Commissioner Hogan said, addressing a crowd of more than 250 farmers at the Kilkenny IFA annual dinner dance on Saturday night.

“We have the tools ready to intervene, including Aid to Private Storage, intervention and a revision of state aid rules,” he added.

Slow

His words will help give farmers comfort that, while Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has been slow to commit to supports, plans for a safety net at EU level are well advanced.

Hogan reassured farmers that the EU is ready for all scenarios, but warned that the Government must also be ready and ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure products can continue to move through ports.

Gloomy

While a no-deal Brexit paints a gloomy picture, vice president of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness is reminding farmers that it could be avoided if a deal is reached between the EU and UK. But, she says, plans are being put in place to deal with a no-deal scenario.

“There are deep concerns about the consequences,” McGuinness told the Irish Farmers Journal.

“We will need to be looking at how you are going to support a vulnerable sector, that will call for money.

"All of those things will have to be discussed in the short period of time before the United Kingdom leaves.”

Lamb prices rocketing ahead
The trade for all types of lamb is strong currently boosting farmers' confidence in the sector.

Factory agents are scouring the country in the hunt for slaughter-fit lambs.

Prices have hardened significantly over the past number of weeks.

Farmers are securing €5.25/kg to €5.30/kg, with specialised feeders negotiating in excess of €5.40/kg for lambs.

The mart trade is booming for all types of lambs currently.

Fleshed factory-fit lambs are selling over €120/head, with €125/head common for lambs weighing over 50kg.

The store lamb trade is on fire, with prices of €2.50/kg to €2.80/kg and higher being recognised for hill-bred lambs.