ICMSA's John Comer at the 'Cap - Have Your Say' Conference in Brussels recently
Speaking from Brussels where he was attending the ‘CAP – Have Your Say’, the President of ICMSA said that all the delegates appreciated the challenge around maintaining the CAP Budget at what he called a “meaningful” level that would enable it to continue to function on its two most important levels – the production of highest standard food to be sold to EU consumers at very affordable prices and the maintenance of an indigenous farming sector and secure source of safe food within the EU.
John Comer said that the reports that the reduction in the overall EU Budget following Brexit would mean severe cuts to CAP were profoundly alarming and threatened what was, and is, a hugely positive economic factor for rural Ireland.
“Ireland’s position must be made abundantly clear: CAP must not be cut and that position had to be made as bluntly and as often as is required. CAP has been a spectacular success in delivering the highest standard food to millions of EU citizens at very affordable prices and it remains a very great joint achievement by both the EU and its farmers. That achievement - that huge public good - has to be recognised and protected and if maintaining CAP meant increasing the contributions of the remaining 27 Member States – Ireland included - than that is what must happen. Reducing CAP by cutting its budget just confirms the worst arguments of the anti-EU Brexiteers and it would also lead almost immediately to significant food price inflation with ‘knock-on’ political and economic implications as well as accelerating the rural depopulation being experienced all over the EU. Are there aspects of CAP that need to be reformed? Undoubtedly. For a start, there’s the blizzard of regulation and inspections that have driven farmers to distraction but – make no mistake about this – Ireland needs CAP functioning and operating to at least its current budget and payment levels. If we have to make maintaining the CAP Budget a precondition for signing-off on any final Brexit deal negotiated by the Commission then that might have to happen.”
Mr Comer also told delegates that Milk Voluntary Reduction Scheme must be made a permanent policy option having proved so successful last Autumn in turning around milk price but he was more sceptical about some of risk management tools being considered, such as a futures market and individual insurance schemes, on the grounds that these always tended to deduct money from farm incomes and direct it towards financial ‘middle men’.