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APRIL 2018
APRIL 2018
Macra mobility success
News that the percentage of young farmers in the EU has
declined by 40 per cent over the past four years makes
Macra's eff orts to encourage more land mobility all the
more important. For every farmer under 35 in the EU, there
are close to 10 over 55 years old. The percentage of young
farmers under 35 in Ireland is reckoned to be about 6.4 per
cent of the farm population. Macra's Land Mobility Service,
managed by Austin Finn and supported by FBD Trust, as
well as the other farm organisations and the Department of
Agriculture, Food and the Marine, has now initiated more
than 400 collaborative arrangements among farmers since
the service was established four years ago. While that fi gure
is impressive, what is even more so is the fact that those
400 'partnerships' represent almost 90,000 acres of Irish
farmland. Not a bad start. Novel cooperative arrangements
among farmers include long-term leases, farm partnerships,
share farming and contract rearing.
AIB opts out of Tullamore Show
The announcement last month that AIB has pulled its major
sponsorship of the Tullamore National Livestock Show was
a major surprise to the industry. The bank's association with
the Tullamore Show goes back to 2003 and has helped it to
develop into Ireland's premier livestock event.
Happily, FBD Insurance was on hand to replace AIB as
the exclusive lead sponsor of the show. While there is
no indication that AIB is reducing its commitment to
involvement in the agricultural sector, the Tullamore
decision is disappointing. AIB was traditionally seen as the
farmers' bank. A change in strategic direction has moved it
away from sponsorship of pure agricultural events, and more
towards organising business development seminars on best
fi nancial management practice around the country. Clearly
the bank is still committed to the sector, with over 16 advisers
working across the various sectors.
bonus cushion
Last year's record revenue
and profi t results from
Ornua mirrored the
accounts of Irish dairy
farmers who had their
most profi table year in
some time. 2018 is showing
indications that milk
producers are going to
experience the other side
of the coin, with falling
milk prices, rising costs and
lower profi ts. While Ornua
will have some opportunity
to safeguard profi tability
by buying wholesale and
selling retail, no such
cushion is available for the
primary producer who is
caught at the other side
of that equation. Still, the
ongoing commitment to
deliver bonuses based on
performance means that
the umbrella marketing
co-op for Irish dairy produce could provide a useful income
cushion for its members in what threatens to be a very diffi cult
year. Speaking of diffi cult, farm costs across all of the livestock
sectors have already risen exponentially, with meal feeding
up by at least a quarter to counteract poor grass growing and
grazing conditions in the fi rst few months of 2018. Another
sucker punch is predicted with concentrate costs increasing as
merchants claim that feed ingredient prices are rising rapidly.
No shortage of maddening CAP ideas
There has been no shortage of proposals in the run-up to
the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The ongoing
consultation period has led to an unprecedented level of
interest in the structure of the CAP, which is up for renewal
under the guidance of European Commissioner for Agriculture
and Rural Development, Phil Hogan. If the Commissioner
thought that accommodating all points of view in his ill-fated
restructuring of the Irish water delivery infrastructure or his
local government reform package was diffi cult, he hasn't seen
anything yet. The European parliament has already got 1,200
amendments listed for distillation under various headings. One
of the more contentious propositions from the parliament's
Agriculture Committee is a suggestion that the existing system
for calculating direct payments in Pillar I, based on historic
entitlements, be replaced by a uniform method of calculating
payments. That would not suit many Irish farmers who have
built up large entitlements going back almost 20 years, though
this process has already begun and is inevitable. Only the
timescale is in doubt.
Nearer to home, the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has submitted
a proposal that would see many areas of farmland in Ireland
returned to the wild. Quite how that is defi ned, given thousands
of years of human intervention, is unclear. In fairness, this is
an eff ort to restore some of the loss of wildlife habitat we have
seen in the past few decades. Obviously, unless the result is to
be poor-quality scrubland, the IWT proposition would require
active intervention by farmers, who, it is proposed, would be
paid for their eff orts under the next CAP.