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IFA President Tim Cullinan said the Programme for Government has positive aspects but lacks clear commitments on budgets and spending.

“Overall, while there are lots of words, it lacks hard figures,” he said.

“In implementing the programme, farmers will be looking to this Government to support farming and bring forward climate action measures that are practical, achievable and that properly reward farmers,” he said.

“Farmers must be viewed as part of the climate solution,” he said.

“Any Climate Change Bill will have to take account of the benefits that farmers and agriculture provide in carbon sequestration. All carbon sinks including grassland, hedgerows, crops, peatlands and forestry must be fully accounted for with the most up to date science.”

“The devil will be in the detail in terms of how emission targets are to be achieved and how they are calculated. We will engage fully in the discussions that will take place,” he said.

Tim Cullinan said there must also be recognition for the cyclical nature of methane in GHG emissions accounting methodology.

“I note the clear statement that biogenic methane must be treated differently and we will ensure this is the case in any new proposals or targets.”

“The Programme for Government commits to an environmental scheme similar to REPS. This will need to be sufficiently resourced with new funding to enable a significant payment per farmer,” he said.

Tim Cullinan also acknowledged the commitment to appoint a food ombudsman in line with the EU directive on the Food Chain.

“Some of the more extreme proposals from the Green Party such as a ban on live exports and the removal of the nitrates derogation are not in the programme, which is important,” he said.

The IFA President said that the increase in the carbon tax would have a disproportionate impact on rural communities where are there are no alternatives.

“The potential for farmers to contribute to our climate targets through the production of renewable energy must be something the new Government embraces,” he said.

“Farmers are keen to play their part, but to date they have been excluded,” he said.

Finally, he said that implementing legislation to revise the Nursing Homes Support Scheme arrangements for farmers and business owners must be prioritised by the new Government

Speaking at the Agrifood Strategy to 2030 at the Aviva Stadium today, IFA President Joe Healy said any policy debate about the future of the sector has to be more farmer focused and the new strategy must contain measurable targets for farmer profitability and viability.

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Addressing the National Economic Dialogue in Dublin Castle today, IFA Farm Business Chairman Martin Stapleton said the most significant challenge for the sector is the imminent EU Mercosur trade deal, which undermines our high production standards.

Through its reports, the EU Food and Veterinary Office has shown that Brazilian imports fail to meet EU standards on traceability, food safety, animal health, the environment and labour law. This is a sell out and agriculture cannot be a sacrificial lamb for trade.

Martin Stapleton said CAP budgetary cuts and a looming Brexit present major threats to the sector, and agriculture must be supported to achieve sectoral climate action targets.

“In Europe, we expect our Government to take a firm position on the Irish CAP Budget where reductions in spending, coupled with a changing of the goalposts, is not acceptable for farm families. Income must be protected. The next round of CAP negotiations cannot result in more unviable Irish family farms by 2027,” he said.

In the short term, Brexit is the biggest challenge. From last Autumn to this Spring there was massive damage to the incomes of livestock farmers caused by uncertainty in the markets.

Martin Stapleton acknowledged the vital support provided by the EU and the Irish Government to producers for these historic losses.

“This Autumn we are once again faced with renewed uncertainty and the possibly of a no-deal outcome, which if it happened would result in far greater losses. It is critical that the future trading relationship between the EU and UK remains a top priority for the Irish Government.”

The IFA Farm Business Chairman said a clear budget must be delivered to achieve the sectoral actions in the Government’s Climate Action Plan.  “Agriculture is our largest indigenous sector; it is vital for keeping rural areas alive and sustainable into the future,” he said.

Martin Stapleton identified three key areas for the upcoming Budget.

  • Incentivised schemes for renewables at farm level, which would also provide a potential income source. If the Government is serious about community led initiatives, then this must mean grid access, improved planning and increased support for micro-gen renewables. More generally we need leadership to guide our sector through the delivery of the Teagasc Climate Roadmap.

Furthermore, we need a Government Strategy for the development of forestry on unenclosed lands. And finally support for further research to ensure all carbon sequestered in grassland, forestry and hedgerows is recognised.

  • The suckler cow herd is worth €3bn to the Irish economy exporting to over 60 international markets. In order to stabilise numbers and improve farm incomes, a targeted payment in the region of €200 per suckler cow is required, structured around the RDP and the existing Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme and Beef Data Genomics Programme.

 

  • The removal of discrimination in the tax system between PAYE employees and the self-employed. The current €300 gap must be closed out in Budget 2020. Within the taxation system there are further opportunities to encourage positive change for the environment, such as accelerated capital allowance for emission efficient equipment and the extension of the VAT 58 form to include items such as health and safety equipment.

This International Women’s Day (IWD), IFA is urging women farmers to get involved in their local Branch or County Executives, by using their skills to strengthen the voice of Irish farmers at all policy levels – local, national and European.

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Addressing the 64th Annual General Meeting in the Irish Farm Centre in Dublin today (Tues), IFA President Joe Healy said there are ‘make-or-break’ decisions imminent for the farming & food sector that will require strong political leadership.

The IFA President said our largest indigenous sector faces multiple threats and the focus of the Government & the EU Commission has to be on the correct policy decisions to secure its future.

And he mounted a strong defence of our food production in light of recent global reports.

Brexit

Joe Healy said with two months to the end of March, the Brexit turmoil has consumed the political system for almost three years. In a process characterised by uncertainty, the one certainty is that it would be a disaster for Irish farming.

The ‘backstop’ has to remain, unless the UK adjust their ‘red lines’ and come forward with something better and we must continue to have unfettered access to our largest market.

“We have made a very strong case to the EU Commissioner Phil Hogan that we need support. In recent weeks, Minister Creed finally recognised that beef farmers are ‘losing their shirts’. Farmers need €20 per head for every 5c per kilo reduction.”

CAP Reform

Ahead of the European Parliament elections, our clear message will be that there must be an increased CAP budget, with two elements: direct payments supporting active farmers, AND a well-funded Rural Development Programme.

Joe Healy said no Irish Commissioner or Minister for Agriculture could ever agree to a reduced budget. We need the budget increased to take account of inflation, and to compensate farmers for any further requirements imposed on them.

The next CAP cannot result in farmers who are already struggling being made unviable. Reducing the payments of other small and medium sized farmers (the squeezed middle) who have already suffered huge cuts makes no sense.

Defining a genuine farmer will be challenging, but we must take it on. CAP funding should go to genuine farmers. Sheikh Mohammad, Coolmore Stud, Larry Goodman & their likes are not ‘genuine farmers’. CAP direct payments can no longer be used to fund Sheikhs and beef barons.

They should be used for farmers who are up in the middle of the night to calve cows, lamb ewes and work around the clock to harvest crops.

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will address the AGM this evening and we expect to hear a strong commitment from him on the CAP Budget. Farmers will judge the Taoiseach on how he delivers on this and other key issues.

Joe Healy said farmers were annoyed & disappointed with his recent comments about meat. “Of course, the Taoiseach can eat what he likes, but as the leader of a country which relies so heavily on our agri sector, we expect him to be more supportive of our top-quality products. He needs to remember he is the Taoiseach for all of Ireland, not just Dublin.”

Climate Change

The Oireachtas Climate Committee will report shortly. Minister Richard Bruton will address the AGM tomorrow to discuss how best to move climate action forward.

Teagasc has a roadmap that has 27 measures, which could reduce climate emissions by almost nine megatonnes. These measures will require further actions by farmers. It will not be easy, but IFA is willing to embrace the proposals which are based on scientific logic.

I have written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and requested him to co-ordinate the Government Departments & state agencies in the delivery of this climate pathway for the sector. We will do more, but the Government approach must be more carrot & less stick.

Concluding today’s address, Joe Healy hit back at some of the commentary surrounding recent global reports on diet. He said farmers have come under attack from all angles.

“People are entitled to eat what they want, but they are not entitled to spread misinformation, fear and falsehoods about farming and the food we produce. Since the dawn of civilisation human beings have lived on a balanced diet of meat, dairy, cereals and vegetables. Life expectancy in the countries who can afford meat in their diets has been increasing.”

Joe Healy said, “Farmers are being told that we should give up producing meat and milk and instead produce fruit and nuts. We won’t be getting rid of our livestock. We produce the best food in the world, naturally, from animals grazing in fields”.

“We won’t be driven off the land by keyboard warriors, quacks or lifestyle gurus. We are proud to be farmers and we are here to stay.”


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