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.