Commission Action Needed for Farm Viability – Downey

Announcing details of a protest by farmers outside the EU Commission offices in Dublin next Monday (August 31st), IFA President Eddie Downey said the failure of the EU to move decisively to safeguard farm incomes is a serious threat to viability.

The IFA President yesterday led a delegation to meet with the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and warned that farm families across a range of enterprises are under severe pressure as political inaction, severe price volatility, excessive input costs and unregulated retailers combine to depress the price paid to producers.

Eddie Downey said, “The Minister is in Brussels today to meet Commissioner Hogan and we made it very clear that he must deliver a strong message that support for farm families is urgently needed”.

In recent weeks, IFA has been in contact with farming organisations across Europe and this week held further discussions with the FNSEA ahead of a major protest in Brussels on Mon, 7th Sept. He said there is widespread backing for our position that producers have to be supported as political decisions by the EU in relation to Russia have contributed massively to the current problems.

IFA National Dairy Chairman Sean O’Leary added: “For dairy farmers, whose margins have come down 92% in the last 16 months, we need the EU Commission to fulfil its legal obligation under regulation 1308/2013 and review the intervention “reference thresholds” in light of increased production costs and raise those prices to provide a genuine “safety net” reflecting higher costs. This would send an immediate and longer term message to global buyers that EU dairy products cannot be bought below cost.”

“In addition, before year-end, the EU Commission will have a fund of over €800m worth of surperlevy fines paid by European over-quota farmers. This fund, nearly double what the EU 2016 Estimates budgeted, must not be subsumed into the EU overall budget, but be used to support dairy farmers and markets. It is not an option to use the Crisis Reserve as this would impact all farmers’ payments. Political decisions created this problem and additional funding has to be found,” he said.

IFA National Grain Liam Dunne said the EU Commission has failed to recognise the serious income challenge facing our 11,000 full and part time tillage farmers as grain prices for the third year in a row are insufficient to cover production costs. In addition the onerous greening requirements coupled with a significant cut in growers’ basic and greening payment scheme will aggravate the already serious income situation.

He said, “Growers are forced to produce crops to satisfy bureaucratic requirements rather than respond to market signals. The unwillingness on the part of the Commission to control speculative investment in farm commodities and fertiliser cartels has exacerbated income volatility leading to a boom and bust situation for many farmers. The lack of profitability in the tillage sector has resulted in a very significant fall in cereal production of close on 90,000ac since 2012.

This situation is not sustainable as any business incapable of generating sufficient profits for reinvestment will eventually collapse. The Commission must act now to:

  • relax greening rules and allow farmers to grow in response market signals;
  • introduce intervention for all grains at prices that reflect production costs;
  • abolish customs duties on non EU fertiliser imports.

IFA Pigs Chairman Pat O’Flaherty said pig farmers across Ireland and the EU are in a serious loss-making situation and it is critical that the EU Commission look to re-open markets, including Russia, for pork products.

The IFA President said Minister Coveney needs to take action on removing the technical obstacles holding back exports of beef and other farm produce to new markets in the US and China. New markets are critical to prevent a repeat of the severe beef price and income problems of 2014.

Eddie Downey said with family farms so dependent on direct payments, Minister Coveney and the Department must deliver all payments on time and within the deadlines set down in the new Charter of Farmers Rights. He said with the income pressure on farmers this year there is no room for any delays whatsoever on payments.

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