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Jerry Long - ICOS President

The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) met yesterday with the new Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Charlie McConalogue T.D. The ICOS delegation was led by Jerry Long, ICOS President and CEO TJ Flanagan.

ICOS President, Jerry Long wished Minister McConalogue every success with his appointment and thanked him for the opportunity to outline the serious challenges facing the Irish co-operative sector. Mr. Long said the Irish co-operative sector has a rich tradition of serving the best interests of farmers and the agri-food sector and looks forward to working with the new Minister in a constructive and positive manner.

Mr Long said, “ICOS discussed the unprecedented challenges facing the agri-food sector due to COVID-19 and Brexit. The Minister acknowledged the tremendous efforts made by co-op management and boards in particular to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 over the peak milk production period and across the milk production supply chain. The efforts made by co-op trading stores and the mart network to keep customers and rural communities safe was also acknowledged.”

“The co-op sector is deeply concerned by the potential anti-competitive implications of the new veterinary medicines regulation.  ICOS made it very clear to the Minister that the viability of the licenced merchant network is at risk should the Department of Agriculture interpret the regulation in a manner that will restrict competition and provide one sector with a captive market.

“ICOS members are responsible, international food processing businesses that have demonstrated real leadership in the area of Antimicrobial Resistance. We have made detailed proposals on the new regulation and have requested a follow up meeting with the new Minister and his officials on this vital issue.”

“We discussed the worrying developments in the UK concerning the Brexit negotiations and the requirement for the Department to deliver substantial support for the sector under the EU’s €5 billion Brexit Adjustment Fund. We also urged the Minister to introduce an income volatility tool based on the ICOS “5-5-5” proposal in the forthcoming budget to enable farmers to use periods when market returns are higher to create a modest rainy-day fund to support them during periods when market returns are weaker. The environmental challenges facing the sector, CAP reform and the continuation of live exports were also key issues raised by ICOS.”

Mr. Long added, “We raised the challenges facing the livestock marts sector and expressed concern that animals unsold at marts and returned will be negatively affected under the Department’s TB Herd Risk Category Proposal. In relation to TB, we highlighted the positive impact of the 42 day exemption granted during the COVID-19 lockdown and urged the Minister to extend the exemption due to its positive impact on the calf trade resulting in more robust and stronger calves being presented for sale during the spring with real benefits for animal welfare.”