Agri-strategy 2025 Must Prioritise Farm Profitability – Downey

IFA President Eddie Downey has said that there is one clear message in IFA’s submission to Agri-Strategy 2025. “While Food Harvest 2020 has delivered in terms of the contribution of farming and the agri-food sector to the economic recovery, the new Strategy will have to return a viable margin to farmers.”

Read the full IFA submission

Eddie Downey said, “Over the past five years, the agri-food sector has been clearly shown to be a key driver of Ireland’s economic recovery, and Ireland’s most important indigenous industry, contributing to economic activity across all parts of Ireland. However, there has been very little progress made in improving the overall viability and profitability of farm enterprises, which underpin the entire agri-food industry”.

He noted that IFA’s message was finally getting through to Government, as in his address to the IFA AGM, the Minister for Agriculture had referenced the fact that a sustainable strategy for the agri-food sector must be built upon viable farm enterprises.

IFA’s submission provides two clear targets for the new strategy, and the actions that are required to achieve these targets. The targets are:

  • Increased Profitability at farm level; and,
  • Increased price premium for sustainably produced Irish food.

The actions required to achieve the targets include:

  • Improved knowledge transfer to farmers, through increased provision of advisory services, including one-to-one farm advisory, formal agricultural education, the discussion group format and through increased farmer participation in programmes to improve herd health and genetics;
  • Rural Development expenditure on farm schemes of a minimum of €550m per year between now and 2020, with an increased CAP budget in the next CAP reform, to address the erosion of value in real terms of the Basic Payment since 2002, with funding targeted to support productive farm enterprises;
  • Legislation for the development of a wholesale price reporting system for food products throughout the supply chain, particularly in the meat sector;
  • Development of further options to tackle volatility, including greater numbers of fixed price contracts, development of futures-based hedging options and enhanced taxation measures;
  • Further incentives to encourage earlier lifetime transfers and family farm partnerships, which address the challenge of generating two incomes from one family farm, through the development of IFA’s proposed ‘Phased Transfer Partnership;
  • Development of mechanisms to borrow working capital at competitive rates using chattel mortgages to address the inefficiencies arising from high levels of merchant credit dependence;
  • Engagement by the EU Commission to tackle the major cartels that control the supply and price of major inputs, in particular fertiliser;
  • Development of an Irish brand for exported agri-food products, to meet the growing demand for an identifiably differentiated product, thereby providing greater market access and opportunities for market segmentation.
  • IFA’s proposals also identify the cross-sectoral policy issues that will be faced by the agri-food sector over the coming decade, including the need for immediate simplification of the CAP and implementation of the fair and balanced Charter of Rights. The submission also identifies the opportunities that will arise from increased market access, while highlighting the potentially damaging impact of certain trade deals, and the need to find the balance between climate change targets and growth in the agri-food sector. The benefits that will be achieved throughout the entire agri-food sector through improvements in animal health are outlined; however farmers must be properly supported to bear the individual costs of herd health improvement. In addition, the submission identifies the need for stronger regulation of the retail sector and a reduction in regulatory compliance costs.

Across each of the individual commodity sectors from beef and dairy, to horticulture and aquaculture, the submission sets out the specific challenges being faced by these sectors and the actions required to improve viability, and grow output value.

IFA President, Eddie Downey, concluded, “IFA’s submission for the agri-strategy committee provides a comprehensive picture of where farming is today and what measures are required to sustainably and profitability grow the sector over the next 10 years. I will be working over the coming months to ensure that the measures we have identified are included in the final strategy and implemented”.

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