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ICOS Marts have asked the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine to immediately reduce the duration of the retention period for stocking density in the Areas of Natural Constraint payments scheme.

ICOS welcomed the Department’s recent commitment to review the ANC retention period, however the co-operative representative body said the time is ‘now’ to respond positively to the concerns raised by making necessary adjustments to the scheme as soon as possible.

The specific measure requested by ICOS involves adjusting the retention period for ANC Payments from 7 to 5 months. This would allow farmers a longer time frame to purchase the animals they need to comply with the stocking density requirements of the scheme. According to ICOS, this would greatly assist the economic viability of farms and would alleviate pressure on marts which are severely restricted to direct sales only, currently being facilitated by the marts but only where feasible under guidelines which are being strictly observed by the marts.

Ray Doyle, Livestock and Environmental Service Executive of ICOS said, “The current 7 month stipulation translates into farmers needing to purchase cattle and sheep now and not resell them until the end of November, which could lead to animal welfare problems in the middle of winter if there is a shortage of housing on farms. This is also a big issue for older farmers, where individuals over the age of 70 are currently cocooning, are unable to source cattle directly and can’t readily get anyone else to buy in their livestock for them.

“We’re hearing of cases where local mart managers have been asked to come onto farms, where people are cocooning, to arrange sale or purchase but this simply isn’t possible as we must avoid non-essential journeys and we most definitely cannot visit anyone who may potentially be at risk from the spread of COVID-19.

“DAFM needs to exercise all necessary flexibility by immediately changing the stocking density time frame from 7 to 5 months for all farmers. The marts aren’t currently operating and the current ‘weigh and pay’ service simply does not have the capacity to alleviate this issue.

“The Department has clearly demonstrated a willingness to be as accommodating as possible within all obvious and necessary constraints which everyone must comply with. This is simply an administrative issue which can make a real and practical difference for hard pressed farmers and particularly for older people who form a large cohort of those depending on the ANC payments system.”