Dairy, beef and sheep farmer representatives have sharply criticised the current CAP strategic plan, following a briefing with the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue on Wednesday.
ICMSA president Pat McCormack said that the continuing lack of options around a workable and attractive eco-scheme had become “downright puzzling”.
The Tipperary man said farmers were entitled to be confused by the Government’s position “which seemed to involve pleading and regulating farmers to become ever more environmentally aware while not coming forward with the scheme that would make that shared objective more possible”.
While the farm organisations were given indications that additional eco-scheme options will be made available, he said farmers “deserve and need to see the detail at this stage” and any options must be realistic, fair and crucially “available to all farmers.”
“We need feasible eco-scheme options that are going to be realistic and attractive to commercial farmers, and commercial dairy farmers in particular. Why don’t we have such a scheme? What’s the problem and what’s the hold-up?” asked McCormack.
“We need a range of these options as soon as possible and they should – they must – reach out to the commercial family farms who are such a decisive element of our overall farm sector and who are facing very considerable losses under this CAP reform.
“If the kind of ambitions that we keep hearing about are to be even contemplated – much less achieved – then we have to start gearing policy around eco-schemes and agri-environment schemes towards the farmers that are such a significant part of overall output.
“That has to happen in tandem with a strong dairy dimension to TAMS and any other means by which we can transition our commercial family dairy farms through the next decade and on to the lower emissions basis,” he insisted.
ICSA president Dermot Kelleher was no more enthusiastic about the current CAP plan, telling the Minister that proposals are not doing enough for the suckler, beef, and sheep sectors.
“It is patently obvious that the Department of Agriculture’s CAP Strategic Plan is flawed; it is totally imbalanced, and it simply delivers nothing meaningful for active cattle and sheep farmers,” he said.
Kelleher said the ICSA has been arguing for greater CAP payments for those sectors most reliant on CAP supports, and those achieving the most on climate action.
“There are over 100,000 low-income farmers in this country, and they need to be supported with a fairer CAP plan. The ICSA has proposed a €300/suckler cow payment; a €35/ewe payment; a €100/head beef finisher payment, and a worthwhile agri-environment scheme.”
On the agri-environment scheme Kelleher said he had argued very strongly today for a higher maximum payment.
“Payments have been whittled away from REPS through to GLAS and this trend must stop. ICSA pointed out today that there is a very real risk that the current Department proposals run the risk of considerable underspend in the rural development programme for the first two years,” he said.
“Given all that is being asked of farmers on climate and biodiversity, this is very wrong. Farmers must be paid more for the climate action measures they undertake, not less,” he said.
“The Minister must now explain how he proposes to move forward and demonstrate that he is listening to the majority of farmers in Ireland who want better supports for the low-income cattle and sheep sectors,” Kelleher maintained.