Launching the IFA Manifesto for the European Parliament & Local Government Elections in Dublin, IFA President Joe Healy said those elected as MEPs for Ireland next month will have some far-reaching decisions to make about the future of Irish agriculture.
Joe Healy said that the major decisions on the shape of the next Common Agricultural Policy and the future trading relationship between the EU and UK will be made during lifetime of the new European Parliament.
“It is vital that farmers vote for candidates who will be willing to ‘fight on their backs’ for Irish farmers,” he said.
On Brexit, Mr. Healy says that while the Withdrawal Agreement is proving to be a very challenging process, the future trading relationship with the UK had the potential to be even more complex and will have huge consequences for Ireland.
Joe Healy said despite Brexit, the proposed EU budget for 2021 to 2027 is higher due to a proposed increase in contributions from the remaining 27 Member States. Yet, the proposed CAP budget is down by 5%, or €97m per annum in Ireland. When the EU proxy inflation rate of 2% is factored in the real impact would be 17%.
“The EU is downgrading the importance of agriculture and food production in favour of other programmes. Under the Commission proposals, the CAP budget will be less than 30% of the overall EU budget, down from almost 60% in the mid 80’s. This has to stop. We need an increase to take account of inflation and the additional asks placed on farmers as a result of the reform,” he said.
On the details of the proposals, IFA held 10 Regional meetings around the country last December and January to listen to the views of our members. The document reflects the outcome of this process.
“While IFA supports the Commission proposals to bring up the per hectare payments of farmers below the average, this should not be funded by cutting the payments of those with payments above the average,” he said.
“These farmers have already taken enough cuts. We need a detailed sectoral analysis of the impact of the convergence proposal as it risks making more farmers unviable,” he said.
“The Minister for Agriculture must take on the issue of the ‘genuine farmer’ definition to ensure that payments are going to active productive farmers,” he said.
On capping Joe Healy says that while IFA supported the Commission proposal on capping, but leased in entitlements should not be included in the calculation as the ultimate beneficiaries of these payments were the landowner and not the farmer.
Overall Mr. Healy said that the issue of the leasing out of entitlements by landowners who had exited farming needed to be looked at in the context of the genuine farmer definition. “It is important that whatever system we have benefits the farmers who are doing the work and taking the business risks” he said.
The Manifesto also deals with services and issues for farm families and rural communities, including broadband, rural crime, roads & planning.
In advance of polling day on Friday, May 24th, IFA is encouraging farm families to inform themselves about where candidates stand on our issues. In order to make an informed choice, farmers are asked to attend meetings in their constituency. The list is as follows:
Wed, April 24th – McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, Co Mayo
Wed, May 1st – Bloomfield House Hotel, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath
Tues, April 30th – Springfort Hall, Mallow, Co. Cork
Tues, May 7th – Springhill Court Hotel, Kilkenny.