2015 started well but went downhill fast for farming

Big IFA wages, beef export deals, BSE, BDGP, bills for superlevy... year of Bs

January

The year started positively for the beef industry, with the announcement that Ireland had become the first EU member state to secure access to the valuable US market.

But shipments have proved slower to develop than first thought.

Also in January, pig farmers gathered outside the headquarters of the Irish Association of Pig Meat Processors (IAPP) to protest against the 42c/kg drop in prices over six months.

At the end of the month, Bord Bia announced that Irish food and drink exports in 2014 had reached a record €10.5bn.

February

Another good news month for the beef industry, with China lifting its ban on Irish beef imports.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney led a major trade mission to the US to capitalise on the arrival of the first Irish beef in 15 years.

The government and the dairy industry announced a joint €35m innovation investment in processing, in preparation for quota abolition.

The first meeting of the beef roundtable forum in 2015 focused on bull beef production and the development of producer organisations in Ireland.

Online applications for the new Basic Payment Scheme were opened.

Minister Coveney also opened the €1.4bn environmental GLAS scheme.

March

Minister Coveney accommodated the ‘old-young farmers’ in the National Reserve Scheme (farmers who established their holding between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009, who did not benefit from Installation Aid and who were not eligible ‘young farmers’ in the 2015 Basic Payment Scheme, could apply).

Glanbia opened its new processing facility at Belview, Co Kilkenny.

ABP sent the first shipments of Irish beef to the US.

April

April 1 saw the abolition of milk quotas across the EU. Since 1984, the Irish dairy industry had operated within a quota environment.

Over-production by Irish dairy farmers left a 2014-15 superlevy bill of €71.2m.

The pig farm income crisis continued.

IFA and beef farmers pushed for removal of the 30-month age limit for prime beef.

May

The eagerly awaited €52m Beef Data and Genomics Programme was opened for applications.

Farmers were angered by the strict scheme rules.

The minister later moved to address farmers concerns, and the deadline was extended in a bid to attract more entrants.

The Young Farmer Capital Investment Scheme was the first of the new TAMS 2 grant schemes to be launched.

Farmers condemned the publication of individual farmers’ EU direct payments for 2014.

June

The World Animal Health Organisation recognised Ireland as having negligible risk for BSE. Less than a week later, a case of suspected BSE was identified in Louth. Test results revealed it to be an “isolated classical” case, resulting in Ireland losing its negligible risk status.

Agreement was reached on the Charter of Rights for Farmers.

As milk processors cut May milk prices, Minister Coveney launched the super levy instalment scheme to facilitate staggered payment of the €71.2m bill.

The TAMS 2 Dairy Equipment Scheme was launched.

July

A 10-year strategy for the agri-food sector called Food Wise 2025 was launched, with the potential to create 23,000 jobs by 2025.

Minister Coveney launched a €3m grant scheme to support collaborative farming.

July 21 was National Farm Safety Day.

The beef roundtable forum met for the second time in 2015.

August

The FBD insurance group posted record losses for the first half of 2015. The group decided to sell its hotels and other property assets.

With milk prices continuing to fall, Minister Coveney called for swift EU action to restore market confidence in the dairy and pigmeat sectors.

Farmers dumped grain at the European Commission’s office in Dublin to protest against falling incomes.

September

EU farmers protested at a Council of Ministers of Agriculture meeting in Brussels over falling farm incomes, where the EU Commission announced a €500m crisis aid package, and allowed a 70% October advance of direct payments to farmers.

The first meeting of the dairy forum focused on market developments and price volatility.

A record 281,000 attended the National Ploughing Championships, where it was confirmed next year’s event will take place at Screggan, Tullamore, Co Offaly.

October

Farmers welcomed taxation measures and targeted measures for young farmers in the budget.

The second tranche of GLAS opened, with a number of adjustments.

Advance payments of €620m in the BPS commenced issuing.

The Canadian market opened to Irish beef, after 19 years. The Oman market also opened to Irish beef and sheepmeat.

November

Farmer frustrations built due to Basic Payment and ANC payment delays.

Revelations of the remuneration package of IFA general secretary Pat Smith were followed by his resignation and that of President Eddie Downey.

Changes in educational requirements for entry to the Young Farmer and National Reserve Schemes led to confusion, requiring 1,100 to attend 27 Teagasc Green Cert course commencement events organised by Teagasc in December.

December

Extra payments flow to farmers, with Minister Coveney announcing commencement of BDGP, GLAS 1, STAP, AEOS and dairy aid payments.

The Minister led a trade mission to West Africa, with business contracts worth over €50m among initial results.

ABP Food Group and Linden Food Group announced their intention to enter a 50:50 joint venture with Slaney Foods.

Con Lucey’s report for IFA revealed General Secretary Pat Smith earned pay, pensions, bonuses, and other fees totalling €3,445,884 since 2009. IFA President Eddie Downey was on €156,000 per year, but his predecessors earned even more.

Figures presented at the Teagasc Outlook 2016 conference indicated that family farm incomes fell 9% in 2015.

Storms Desmond and Frank caused large scale flooding; the Department of Agriculture confirmed that about 100 farmers received emergency fodder supplies.


Lifestyle

Four graduates tell Siobhan Howe how their fine art degree has influenced their approach to their working life.What use is a degree in fine art? Four graduates answer the question

Terry Gilliam tells Esther McCarthy about the mystery woman who helped him to finally get his Don Quixote film made after 30 yearsTerry Gilliam: Back in the saddle again

Twitch will no longer be the home of esports for Call of Duty, Overwatch and Hearthstone, with those games (and more) going to YouTube instead.Violence in the stream: Big changes for esports

That may say more about how the media treats flaws and beauty than it says about Alicia Keys herself, but nevertheless, it was refreshing at the time to see someone say no to the Hollywood expectations of beauty.The Skin Nerd: Unlocking Alicia Keys’ secrets to gorgeous skin

More From The Irish Examiner