Supermarkets have ‘super power’ over farmers – Commissioner Phil Hogan
The Commissioner was speaking at a Food Safety Authority of Ireland conference in Dublin on Friday.

Supermarkets have a disproportionate leverage over primary producers of food, which must be addressed, European Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has said.

Speaking at the FSAI Safeguarding The Food Chain conference in Dublin Castle on Friday, Commissioner Hogan said supermarkets now enjoy “super power” due to the twin effect of increased globalisation and a high level of concentration within Europe.

“The imbalance of bargaining power between price-setters and price-takers is stark,” he highlighted. “Leading to a situation where there is a real fear factor for farmers of commercial retaliation, late payments and other headaches.”

Fear factor

Commissioner Hogan said that the farmers’ share of what EU consumers spend on food is being continuously squeezed, due to the “clear imbalance of power between producers and other links of the food supply chain”.

He warned that regulators and policymakers can never afford to lose sight of one fact: without the primary producer, there is no food supply chain.

“And primary producers can only do their vital work if they receive a fair buck for their work,” he added.

“A well-functioning food supply chain is essential for our society. Farming, food processing, retail and food service represent over 44m jobs in 14m businesses across the EU,” he said.

“This is one of our biggest employment sectors. And our consumers can only be guaranteed a reliable food supply if farmers are guaranteed a reliable income and a fair share of the pie.”

Tackling unfair trading practices

Commissioner Hogan referred to planned moves to tackle unfair trading practices, and said the Commission is now moving to the next step of drafting a legislative proposal.

“It is my sincere hope that all the stakeholders who recognise the problem will also proactively support the potential solution.”

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Food chain reform moves closer

Long road to tackle unfair trading practices

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.

Read more

Farmers protest fresh forestry expansion in Co Leitrim

Budget 2019: €200 increase in earned income credit for the self-employed

Understanding your 2018 tax bill

‘Factories need to make a profit’ – An Taoiseach

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.

Read more

Forestry dominates Leitrim CAP meeting

Drystock farmers should plant forestry on their wetter fields – Department

Afforestation payments to non-farmers doubled in past two years