Addressing farmers from every sector and every part of the country at a protest outside the EU Commission offices in Dublin today (Mon), IFA President Eddie Downey said immediate action by the EU Commission is needed to resolve the income crisis facing farming, and especially the grain, dairy and pigs sectors. He said the EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has to move now to implement EU measures to underpin the viability of farm families.
Eddie Downey warned that farmers across a range of enterprises are under severe pressure as political interference in markets, severe price volatility and unregulated retailers combine to decimate farm incomes and undermine the sector.
In recent weeks, IFA has held discussions with farming organisations across Europe ahead of a major protest in Brussels on Monday next, 7th Sept to coincide with the emergency Farm Council meeting. Eddie Downey said that at a meeting last week with the Minister, he left him in no doubt as to what measures the EU Agriculture Ministers need to bring forward to address the crisis. The IFA President also said Minister Coveney will have to intensify his efforts to get markets open for Irish produce in the US and China. “All EU payments will have to be made on time; a 75% advance on the Basic Payment secured; and, strong funding in October’s Budget”.
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. 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 Chairman 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 payments 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 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 to market signals;
• introduce intervention for all grains at prices that reflect production costs; and,
• 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. “We also need to see the introduction of APS and export refunds to assist in the re-balancing of European markets.”
On beef, the IFA President said Minister Coveney needs to take action on removing the technical obstacles holding back exports to new markets in the US and China in order to deal with increased cattle numbers in the pipeline for 2017, and to prevent a repeat of the severe beef price and income problems of 2014. He said there must be real delivery on getting access to new markets.
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.