ICSA president Patrick Kent
The Government has come under pressure from farm organisations to resist the proposed €30bn cuts to CAP announced in Brussels last week.
ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that, while the new CAP reform proposals offered some scope for innovative policies, nothing will work unless planned 5 per cent cuts were overcome.
IFA president Joe Healy said the proposed cuts were a major threat to farming in Ireland and must be strongly resisted.
In its 2021 to 2027 plan, the European Commission is reducing the budget for direct support for farmers by around €30bn.
“The reality is that the Government, along with other member states, is going to have to make up its mind on whether it wants CAP cuts or not. The reality is that the EU Commission proposals, based on a 5 per cent cut to CAP, actually translates into a severe watering down of the Rural Development Programme for the 2021-2027 period,” said Mr Kent.
He pointed out that thus meant less agri-environment schemes, less farm development and potentially a devastating cut to the ANC payment.
“ICSA will fight against this at every turn. We must remember, too, that the 5 per cent cut is much worse if we take inflation into account,” said Mr Kent.
He said that an earlier proposal to cap the payments at €60,000 had been watered down to a cap of €100,000 with scope to get around that with labour.
ICSA is opposing large scale payments to factory controlled feedlots. More worrying was that the higher the cap, the harder it is to protect payments to small and medium scale farmers, he said.
“On a more positive note, the potential exists to make higher payments to sustainable cattle and sheep farmers who aim to improve soil pH while minimising over use of nitrogen, under environment and climate change headings,” said the ICSA leader.
He said that it was also welcome to see that the Commission was again recognising that support for young farmers will be a lot more effective if there were retirement, partnership or mentoring options at the other end of the age scale.
The ICSA president also said that more needs to be done on making the food chain fair for the primary producer.
“We welcome the measures put forward by Commissioner Hogan on Unfair Trading Practices. However, we need to go a step further and require mandatory audits of who gets what margin in the food chain,” he said.
rural ireland at stake
Meanwhile, Mr Healy said the future of farming and rural Ireland was at stake as farmers were already struggling on low incomes.
“The fundamental issue for farmers is the size of the CAP Budget. It is completely unacceptable that any cut is being contemplated when farmers are already struggling on low incomes and are being asked to do more under CAP proposals,” said Mr Healy.
He said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar must make it clear at EU heads of state level that the proposals were a “non-runner”.
“The Taoiseach must insist on an increased budget to take account of inflation and the cost of any additional measures imposed on farmers,” said Mr Healy.
He further stated that this point must be made forcibly by Minister Creed when he met like-minded Ministers for Agriculture to build alliances on this issue.
“The future of farming and rural Ireland is at stake,” he said.
He said the proposals were unfair and unacceptable and must be rejected.
IFA will be intensifying its CAP campaign as the details emerge of the legislative proposals over the next number of weeks and months. This will include lobbying MEPs and TDs.
IFA has already lobbied over 80 TDs and Senators at national level where there was strong support for farmers and the CAP, which includes farm schemes which are vital to support low incomes.
“All sectors have shared in the economic revival, yet farmers have had their direct payments eroded by inflation. At the very least, farmers need a CAP increase in line with inflation,” said Mr Healy.
European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan admitted the budget could encourage larger farms to split up. “There is nothing stopping farmers or businesses from splitting their farms,” he said.