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ICOS President, Edward Carr. Picture by Shane O'Neill, Coalesce.

ICOS made its pre-budget submission and is calling for a suite of measures to support the agrifood sector. ICOS President Edward Carr stated:

The Irish Agri-Food Sector is a dynamic and resilient industry and the co-operative movement contributes significantly to its success. In recent years, we have witnessed at first hand the fragility of our farming and food system due to the threat of Brexit, the global pandemic and the illegal invasion of Ukraine.  However, during this period of uncertainty, the sector has recognised its responsibilities with respect to climate change, water quality, ammonia, biodiversity and animal welfare.

“Regrettably, the recent decision to reduce the maximum stocking rate under the Nitrates Directive, threatens to undermine this good work and our sustainable grass-based model of production.  Nevertheless, ICOS remains confident that the sector will continue to work hard to address the challenges facing the sector, especially related to climate change and water quality, but tangible support is needed from the Government.

Dairy-calf to beef measures needed

Budget ’24 needs to contain specific measures and supports to address the priority issues facing the sector and our family farms. We are recommending measures to help develop a sustainable dairy calf to beef supply chain to improve animal welfare outcomes and reduce dependency on live exports. Our recommendations include the introduction of support to cover the cost of TB testing for calves under 120 days to encourage holding on to calves in breeding herds for a longer period of time.

“A huge rethink is required to support the development of a sustainable dairy calf to beef value chain, with only 42% of rearing herds deciding to purchase calves on a continuous basis, which represents a very high attrition rate.  We are advocating for a wide-ranging calf rearing programme, modelled on the Tillage Incentive Scheme that will recognise the strategic importance of the dairy-calf to beef sector due to the increasing number of beef calves coming from our dairy herd. This represents a massive challenge for our industry, and strategic support by Government is needed.

“We are also seeking support for agri-merchants and co-ops to cover the cost of IT development associated with the Fertiliser Register and National Veterinary Prescription System. Our submission outlines a range of new initiatives designed to kick-start an indigenous co-op led bioeconomy. We restate our recommendations related to enhanced support for slurry storage to reduce risks to water quality, the introduction of an income stabilisation measure to address income volatility in the sector and specific supports for co-operative enterprises.”

The following measures are included in the ICOS Pre Budget Submission:

  • The introduction of the ICOS “5-5-5” Income Stabilisation Tool.
  • The continuation of support for farmers to deal with high input prices, balanced against the need to deliver on environmental commitments.
  • The continuation of Brexit Adjustment Reserve Funding in 2024 to support the National Genotyping Programme.
  • The introduction of a Slurry Storage Capital Investment Package.
  • TB Testing Incentive Under 120 days.
  • Calf Rearing Incentive Scheme.
  • Support for a Co-operative Bioeconomy Work Programme including transformative demonstration sites and viable feed-in tariffs & longer contracts.
  • IT Voucher for Agri Retailers to address new IT related compliance costs.
  • Co-operative shares should qualify as qualifying assets for the purpose of calculating the CAT agricultural relief (“agricultural property”) and CGT Retirement Relief (“qualifying assets”) on the transfer of the agricultural property.
  • Capital expenditure incurred on the purchase of the qualifying shares in co-operatives should be eligible for capital allowances.