Patrick Kent has announced his intention to step down from his position as leader of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) with immediate effect, at a meeting of the association’s national executive this evening. Mr Kent has held the position since 2014, having been re-elected twice during that time.
During his time at the helm of ICSA, Mr Kent was the first farm leader to push for an EU level auditor to analyse and publicise who makes the profit from beef and to expose retailers or processors who take excess margin from the food chain.
Mr Kent led the way in uncovering how the Quality Assurance Scheme (QAS) was being used and abused. He was adamant that farmers were not gaining any benefit from it and fronted a highly publicised ICSA campaign 'RED CARD for QAS' at the Ploughing Championships.
He was the first farm leader to bring attention to the fact that farmers were losing on average €150 per head of cattle by virtue of receiving zero payment for the fifth quarter, a matter he raised on numerous occasions at sittings of the Beef Forum.
Mr Kent argued that Ireland needed to do a better job of marketing Irish beef internationally. He was firm in his belief that grass fed Irish beef and lamb were superior, world class products, which should be aimed at discerning consumers so that primary producers could achieve a premium price.
He was the first farm leader to realise that militant vegan ideology was a threat to the livestock sector and had the potential to undermine the viability of livestock farmers. He was resolute in his belief that vegan propaganda should be questioned at all times and he highlighted the fact that multi-million dollar businesses stood to gain massive profits from the vegan fad.
He led the way in opposing CETA, Mercosur and TTIP trade deals and was uncompromising in his belief that none of those negotiations had any upside for the Irish beef sector.
Mr Kent showed vision in his outspoken viewpoint that consumer resistance to GM foods could not be ignored by a food exporting island which wanted to achieve premium prices based on a clean green image.
He also worked very hard to persuade environmental campaigners that cattle and sheep farming systems in Ireland were part of the solution not part of the problem. He emphasised to them that if they wanted more sustainable food systems they had to support sustainable livelihoods for farmers through better product prices.
Mr Kent was to the fore in bringing the concerns of the Irish beef sector to the top of the Brexit agenda. ICSA was the first farm organisation to speak personally with Michel Barnier after his appointment as EU Chief Negotiator for Brexit. He was also the first Irish farm leader to speak to the then DEFRA Secretary of State, Andrea Leadsom, in the House of Commons not long after the Brexit referendum.
He was an active figure in Brussels having led countless delegations from ICSA over the years. He was proud of the fact that ICSA does not take levies but was nevertheless able to represent their members effectively both at home and in Brussels.
In recent weeks Mr Kent has focused his efforts on securing an EU Brexit support package for beef farmers. He met with both the EU Commissioner Phil Hogan and Minister Michael Creed to drive home the fact that for beef farmers the Brexit impact has already hit.
Mr Kent was thanked for the commitment he has shown to ICSA and for the visionary approach he brought to many of the most challenging issues facing the farming sector during his time as president.