Calls have been made for Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to redistribute €200m allocated for organic farming to conventional suckler, sheep and tillage farmers.
Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) north Tipperary chair Imelda Walsh said the money would be better spent supporting farmers in those sectors whose payments are being hit by the combination of convergence, front-loading and eco schemes.
"I have huge respect for organic farming and farmers, but a lot of their product struggles to find a market and goes into the conventional market,” she told the Irish Farmers Journal.
“Organic food is a niche, artisan product that it outside the affordability range of most Irish families.
"If we follow what the Minister said and increase the land under organics from 77,000ha to 330,000ha, that niche will be gone, where will they find their market then?” she asked.
Walsh described Minister McConalogue’s CAP spending plans, announced this week, as “aspirational” and “very disingenuous to beef finishers”.
“Commodity prices are going well at the moment, but it’s only two years since beef farmers were at the gates of factories.
"What happens if the market slumps again? There’s nothing for beef finishers in the announcements this week, they have been ignored completely,” Walsh said.
Speaking as the Minister arrived at Thurles Mart to outline his CAP plans and hear farmer feedback, she said that while €260m had been allocated for the new suckler carbon efficiency scheme, it was not going to be enough for the entire suckler herd.
“There’s €160/cow for the first 10 cows and €120/cow after that, but it only covers 385,000 cows - what about the other 500,000 cows?
"Where does the Minister think they are going to go?” she asked. “If all suckler cows were applied for, the payment is only €55/cow.”
Similarly, she pointed out that the €20m sheep scheme was being quoted as €12/ewe, but if the fund were allocated across all 2.6m sheep, it would equate to only €7.70/head if all farmers applied.
Tillage farmers hit
Tillage farmers are being badly hit by convergence of farm payments, the Tipperary farmer added.
“Tillage farmers in Tipperary lost the sugar beet industry and now they’re being hit again,” she said.
Walsh described Minister McConalogue as “like someone who went to the shop and came home with all the sweets and cakes, but forgot all the core things like meat and bread and milk - he did not spend the money wisely”.
On the new agri environment measures, which has a top payment available of €10,000, the IFA county chair said she could see the maximum payment going to only a very small cohort of farmers and expected to see the majority receiving closer to the €5,000 average.
“What would also concern me about that scheme is how much money will leak to consultants out of farmers’ payments,” she added.
As the third IFA protest in 36 hours got under way in Co Tipperary, Walsh pledged “the Minister will not leave Tipperary without realising the impact of his plans on farmers in this county. He had the opportunity to spend the money wisely and he didn’t do it.”
She added that she felt Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were “getting away a bit light by letting the Greens be blamed for everything. They are all in Government together.”