2016 – A year of discontent for farming in Limerick

A look back at the farming stories that made headlines over the last 12 months

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

Email:

donal.oregan@limerickleader.ie

2016 – A year of discontent for farming in Limerick

Oisín Monaghan, Bunratty and his bovine pal were in relaxed mood at the Cappamore Show Picture: Dave Gaynor

WHILE other reviews of the year will concentrate on the general election, Richard Kennedy’s massive vote to get the IFA deputy president role was a big one in Limerick.

The excitement and joy from his supporters can be seen from the excellent photo. Highly-respected by all, Mr Kennedy threw his hat in the ring to “put IFA back to where it was” after the pay scandal in 2015. Even detractors of the IFA will agree that farmers need as many organisations as possible to fight their corner.

The year began with flooding and, indeed, there was a cloud over the agri-sector for most of the year. After almost two years of low milk prices there has been a pick-up at the back end and forecasts for 2017 are positive. But just when things were looking up envelopes from the Revenue demanding tax arrears on Kerry patronage shares from 2011 to 2013 were dropped in the letterbox.

Beef, pig and sheep farmers struggle on with Brexit a big worry. While grain farmers protested at Foynes.

Crime is a constant worry on Limerick farms. Trespassers casually walking onto land like they own it, running their dogs, frightening cattle, is on the rise.

Happy New Year to all Farm Leader readers and hopefully 2017 will be full of prosperous stories. Your health is your wealth and after 20 died on farms in 2016 have a safe 12 months. 

 

January

On a visit to flooded farms in Limerick and Clare, ICMSA president John Comer called for an “end to petty inter-agency rivalries and bureaucratic diktat” and put “farmers before fish”.

Richard Kennedy told Farm Leader he was planning on running for IFA deputy president - little did he know what would follow.

Chairman of Limerick and Clare Milk Producers, Michael O’Connor put it well when he said:“If you think back to this time last year people were looking forward to farming without quota restrictions which dairy farmers embraced wholeheartedly. But alas we didn’t expect to be milking more cows with more work for less income.”

February

Gerald Quain, Creggane, was elected chairman of the ICMSA dairy committee. “Milk price is always the priority of ICMSA,” he said.

The IFA elections are the “most important in the organisation’s history”, declared Limerick IFA chairman Aidan Gleeson.

In the midst of the general election, chair of Limerick ICMSA, Thomas Blackburn dismissed the level of attention and focus that all parties have given to the problems currently confronting both the farming community and the wider rural sector. 

Days after IFA economist Kevin Kilcline said national farm income in 2015 is down 3% on 2014, Kerry Group reports that trading profit increased by 10% to €700m in the preliminary statement of results for the year ended December 31, 2015.

March

Kerry Co-op says discussions are ongoing in relation to an additional top-up payment for dairy farmers. The comment came after the ICMSA said Kerry must deliver on its leading milk price commitment.

IFA deputy president candidate, Richard Kennedy, says the country is “wide open to criminals” after traversing the State over the last six weeks and only meeting one garda checkpoint.

“I have been out five, four or a minimum of three nights a week since February 9, driving at all hours of the day and night. I was in every county in the country and only came across one garda checkpoint. If anyone wanted to rob the country they could take it with impunity. That’s what it looks like to me,” said Mr Kennedy.

Amid reports that licensed firearm holders are patrolling the countryside during the night because they are in constant fear, IFA presidential election candidate Joe Healy spotted a Limerick Leader article on the scourge of trespassers.

“Trespassers on farmland are a serious concern for farmers in Limerick, as well as in other parts of the country, and this is an issue that IFA will have to be more proactive in addressing. I was shocked by the reports in the Limerick Leader which detailed the activities of individuals supposedly ‘hunting’. It is a worrying development when people who are on private property refuse to leave when asked to do so,” said Mr Healy, who was later elected president.

April

GVM celebrated 60 years in business in 2016 and they built up to a massive land auction day on Friday, April 29.Tom Crosse – who marks 30 years with GVM – agrees that the land market is a bit softer, understandably due to milk prices halving but as the old saying goes “God isn’t making anymore of it”.

Limerick IFA county chairman Aidan Gleeson described the election of Richard Kennedy as a “proud day” and a “huge honour” for Limerick IFA.

Mr Kennedy said: “So many people helped me throughout the campaign and I wouldn’t have got it without them. I am very pleased for everyone who helped me out. I have been at both sides of it. I have the experience of losing when I lost in 2009 [in the IFA presidential election] and it wasn’t so much for myself it was more so for all the people who helped me. We know what it was like to lose and it was nice to have the opportunity to win. I am glad for my family and everyone who helped me.”

With milk prices now below the cost of production for nearly a full year and with a number of co-ops announcing further reductions in milk price for March, the chairperson of ICMSA’s dairy committee Gerald Quain says the extent of reductions in the March milk cheque has sent “shock waves through Limerick’s dairy community and farmers and their families are now at the very limit of commercial  survival”.

May

ICMSA’s Gerald Quain commented on the shock resignation of Kerry Co-op CEO Stan McCarthy.

“In relation to paying the leading milk price, it is true that this has been a bone of contention and it is essential that the parties tasked with delivering this commitment reach a conclusion as soon as possible and deliver on the commitment to pay the leading milk price,” said Mr Quain.

The Limerick region winner of the Dairygold Milk Quality Awards was Pallasgreen’s Timmy Ryan - and it would be no surprise to see his sons win it in the future. Timmy farms 100 acres with wife Therese and twin sons Brendan and Raymond.

June

The sun shone on all Limerick farmers this week but especially the dairy farmer of the year – Robert O’Dea. Like many, the Kilteely man made the most of the good weather to make silage.

“They were the easiest tickets we ever sold,” said one of the organisers of a celebration night to mark Richard Kennedy’s election as IFA deputy president. Over 250 gathered in the Dunraven Arms for an evening that Mr Kennedy said he will “forever treasure”.

Limerick and Clare Friesian Breeders Club has been on the go since 1973 and held their annual stock judging field evening on Dermot Ryan’s farm at Sallybank.

Thomas Neville, aged 24, from Croagh, was named Senior European Young Breeder at the European Holstein Championships in France. Thomas combined with Corkman Paul Murphy to win the prestigious overall showmanship championship beating the UK into second and Italians into third.

July

It is critical Ireland’s agri-food trading relationship with the UK is maintained in the aftermath of Britain’s decision to leave the EU, says Deputy Niall Collins. Long established trade links with the UK have led to a large agri-food export market – accounting for over 40% of total exports.

ICMSA’S Gerald Quain says figures published by the CSO show dairy farmers are “running harder only to go backwards”.

“And the consequent dilemma that has left the State’s 18,000-odd dairy farmers having to work harder and longer producing more milk while still suffering very significant income loss or even wipe-out,” said Mr Quain.

At a time when farmers are working longer hours and doing more with less to try and pay the bills in the midst of an income crisis, Deputy Niall Collins reveals that farm safety expenditure in 2016 has been cut by almost 40%.

August

Over 100 tillage farmers staged a protest at Foynes Port, beginning early on Tuesday morning. They were led by IFA vice-president Richard Kennedy and succeeded in stopping the unloading of a shipload of barley, believed to have come from France.  

Cappamore and Limerick Shows went off with aplomb as did Charleville and Newcastle West in June and July. Those of us who turn up on the day haven’t a clue how much time and effort goes into organising these events. They are a celebration of country life and an integral part of the summer.

September

The Irish Limousin Cattle Society thanked two local families for welcoming the prestigious International Limousin Congress to their farms and showcasing their outstanding livestock. Twenty eight different nationalities visited John and Paula McInerney, Bunratty and Timothy and Doreen Corridan, Fedamore.

Sam Shine, managing director of Samco in Adare, received a prestigious award for support of Chinese farmers in Changji in the northern part of the Xinjiang.

Limerick’s three representatives at the National Ploughing Championships were out of luck. Owen O'Sullivan, Broadford, Michael John Dillane, Milford, and Pat O’Riordan, Rathkeale, all took part in Tullamore.

Land sells for €16k an acre. GVM’s Tom Crosse handled the auction of 20 acres located at Ballinakill, Adare. The gavel fell at €325,000.

October

Limerick was represented by award winning dairy and pig farmer Jim Fraher at the annual Paddy Fitzgerald memorial awards. Aidan Gleeson, Limerick IFA chair, said Jim has been very involved in the community throughout his life.

Chair of Limerick ICMSA, Thomas Blackburn says there is a lot of resentment amongst the agricultural community about “disproportionate fines that had been levied against farmers on foot of council prosecutions”. A judge fined a Mountcollins farmer €2000 and ordered him to pay costs of €2,474 for failing to comply with a notice issued to him under the Waste Management Act to move silage bales and remove any plastic from the stream. While a Montpelier man was fined €3,000 and ordered to pay costs of €3,452 for not having planning permission for an agricultural shed.

Limerick agri-tech business BHSL announced the appointment of former Kerry CEO Denis Brosnan as chairman of the company. BHSL has developed a unique, patent-protected system to convert poultry manure into a fuel for energy generation on-farm.

November

Over 3,000 Macra men and women from around the country descended on Limerick for a Bank Holiday weekend they won’t forget in a hurry. Limerick Macra put in a Herculean effort to organise a huge number of events that showed the county and city at its best. It was the first time the rally, sponsored by GVM, has been held here in 16 years.

With the vast majority of Limerick dairy farmers supplying Kerry, news that Revenue is demanding tax arrears on patronage shares from 2011 to 2013 has caused confusion and consternation. Deputy Niall Collins said: “This is a bombshell out of left field. Farmers have just endured a milk price crisis for two years. They have financial commitments for the next number of years based on their income projection and cash flow.”

December

Some 300 farmer delegates from all over the state gathered in the Castletroy Park Hotel for the annual general meeting of the ICMSA. There was plenty to talk about with Brexit, milk price, beef grid and Kerry share issue dominating the agenda.

Four students from Salesian Secondary College, Pallaskenry are preparing their final presentation for a national farming competition. The quartet, Daniel McSweeney, Dean Garvey, Shaun O’Connor and Jamie Fitzgerald took part in the 2015 Certified Irish Angus Beef Schools Competition which concludes in January 2017 and involved them raising four calves while concurrently investigating a farming issue. The boys raised their calves with due care and diligence while choosing the topical issue of farm safety as their theme.

Ballysteen landowners are still awaiting action on agricultural land that was flooded almost three years ago after severe storms.