ICMSA president Pat McCormack
The country's three main farming organisations have raised concerns over the proposed 5 per cent cut in the CAP budget announced by the EU Commission.
IFA president Joe Healy said the proposal to cut the budget by 5 per cent should be a red line issue for the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.
ICMSA president Pat McCormack said that “not for the first time” farmers throughout the EU will look on the French government as their defenders and the ultimate supporters of the EU’s indigenous farming sector.
ICSA president Patrick Kent said the measure will be “very worrying” for Irish farmers.
Mr Varadkar has a big political challenge on his hands, and an increased CAP Budget for Irish farmers has to be a red line issue for him in the negotiations, according to Mr Healy.
He said the proposal from Commissioner Oettinger of a reduction in the CAP budget post-2020 was a “big blow for Irish farmers”.
“It is clear that the Commission has moved to fill the Brexit gap, but they have prioritised other areas at the expense of the CAP, which is another setback for Irish farmers on foot of the UK decision to leave,” he said.
The IFA president said there was a huge task for the Government, the Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan and Ireland's MEPs to get an increase in the CAP budget. “They must pull out all the stops and reject the cuts agenda by the Commission,” he said.
Mr Healy said that all sectors had shared in the economic revival, yet farmers had had their direct payments eroded by inflation. At the very least, farmers needed a CAP increase in line with inflation.
Mr McCormack said that the statement on the proposed cuts attributed toFrench farm Minister Monsieur Travert represented the kind of solid, principled and farsighted rebuttal of the Commission’s proposal that Irish farmers wished to hear.
It was now incumbent upon the Government to fall in behind the French position and signal to the Commission that the proposals represented an unacceptable and devastating blow to what was, in Minister Travert’s phrase, “the oldest and most integrated policy of European construction”.
Mr McCormack said the French position effectively meant that the proposed cuts were “all to play for” as an budgetary option and Ireland must now resume its efforts to convince the Commission and others to maintain the CAP Budget though increased Member contributions “if that is what is required”.
The ICMSA president also dismissed the idea that the cuts were manageable and would amount to five percent.
“Respected analysts have estimated that the proposed cuts would translate to a cut in direct payments of up to 15 per cent and their methodology is a great deal more convincing than airy pronouncements of the cuts only being of the order of five percent,” he said.
Mr McCormack said that France had opened the door and – given the fundamental role direct payments play in our rural economy – it was up to our Government to step through that door in support of France and, ultimately, ourselves.
Meanwhile, ICSA president Patrick Kent said the announcement of a proposed 5 per cent cut in CAP funding in the next seven-year EU budget will be very worrying for Irish farmers.
Mr Kent was in Brussels for the speech of Commission president Jean Claude Juncker at the European Parliament and the announcement by budget Commissioner Oettinger of detailed Multi Annual Financial Framework (MFF) proposals.
“It is now time for straight talking on how we can support farmers who face huge challenges especially in the light of Brexit” he said.
The 5 per cent cut in CAP, which translated into 4 per cent cut in direct payments, was unacceptable, said Mr Kent.
“It is clear that while member states are being asked to increase their contribution, the figure of 1.114 per cent of GNI is less than many would have hoped for,” siad Mr Kent.
It was also critical to note that Commissioner Oettinger had also outlined ideas for increased “own resources” for the EU which were highly likely to be controversial and which Ireland will have difficulties with, he said.
All options must be explored, including national co-financing of direct payments, subject to strict guidelines to ensure fairness for all EU farmers, said Mr Kent.
He said that there was no doubt that member states must face up to the funding dilemma but the assumption that the EU can do more in other areas by raiding CAP funds had to be challenged.
The focus should really be on more efficient use of EU resources, said Mr Kent.
“A cut in CAP funding simply cannot be absorbed by Irish farmers. It is impossible to expect farmers to do more and more for less and less and this message has to get through,” said Mr Kent.