ICOS (the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society) represents over 130 co-operatives in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts.
ICOS member co-operative businesses are major contributors to Ireland’s €14.5 bn agri-food exports, including dairy sector exports valued at €4.4 bn in 2019.
The co-op sector provides significant levels of employment throughout rural Ireland, with the dairy sector supporting 60,000 jobs. The agri-food sector is Ireland’s largest indigenous economic sector and contributes a much larger return to economic activity compared to the multinational sector due to the deeply rooted nature of the Irish agri-food sector in the rural and wider economy.
President of ICOS, Jerry Long said:
“The agrifood industry is an essential pillar of Ireland’s economic success, nationally, regionally, locally, serving the interests of rural communities and underpinning the security of Ireland’s food supply for consumers and export markets abroad.
“Agriculture can continue delivering for Ireland on a sustainable basis for the future but this requires a realisation by all parties, who intend governing, that our sector must be supported to the maximum possible extent now and into the future, in policy, in practice and most specifically in the new Programme for Government.”
ICOS as the umbrella body for the co-operative sector calls on all political parties to prioritise the agriculture sector in the next Government by implementing the following measures that will support farmers and their co-operatives:
- Support the swift conclusion of trade negotiations between the UK and EU and ensure the continuation of tariff free access by Irish exporters to the UK market.
- Maintain a strongly funded CAP Budget that will support farm family income, generational renewal and sustainable farming practices.
- Support the implementation of the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve and ‘Ag Climatise’ Roadmap, which identifies a range of cost-effective climate and air mitigation actions for the sector.
- Defend and support the continuation of the derogation to the Nitrates Directive, which is essential to the future development of the Irish agri-food sector.
- Robustly defend the continuation of live exports, in line with the highest animal welfare standards.
- Support the inclusion of an income stabilisation tool in the next Budget to enable primary producers to grow and manage their business, while having a more reliable and stable cashflow to aid them in decision making, resulting in a wider positive economic impact on the rural economy.
- Appoint a new independent enforcement authority to oversee the implementation of the Unfair Trading Practices Directive. The authority should be led by a high-profile appointment, through the establishment of an Ombudsman office or equivalent with responsibility of investigating alleged breaches of the directive and proactively promoting fair trading and fair pricing in the food supply chain.
- As a matter of urgency, an independent beef sector regulator needs to be appointed to bring fairness and transparency.
- Ireland must not impose a restrictive and costly burden on farmers in this regard that may jeopardise live exports and greatly restrict the free and fair trade of livestock.
- Urgently address the serious cost of settling claims in Ireland compared to all other EU member states. This is a major contributor to the exorbitant insurance premiums many co-ops are faced with, especially those where members of the public are involved. Legislation needs to be enacted as a matter of priority to deter fraudulent and exaggerated claims.
- In the next Budget, allow the purchase of co-op shares, which is linked to a milk supply or other agreement allowable against income tax.
- Enact a new co-operative act to modernise the legislative framework governing co-ops, which is long overdue.