CAP an ‘ob­vi­ous tar­get’ with tillage farm­ers vul­ner­a­ble

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS - LOUISE HO­GAN

THE tillage sec­tor is “ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble” with many likely to go out of busi­ness if faced with cuts to di­rect pay­ments, a CAP event in Kilkenny has heard.

Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner for Agri­cul­ture Phil Ho­gan has warned that Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy (CAP) fund­ing was be­ing viewed as an “ob­vi­ous tar­get” for cuts amid in­creas­ing bud­get de­mands in Europe.

A wide-rang­ing IFA-EU Com­mis­sion Cit­i­zens’ Di­a­logue event on CAP in Kilkenny heard that farm­ers from all sec­tors had ma­jor con­cerns about the fu­ture of pay­ments with a new seven-year bud­get post-2020 be­ing de­cided.

Jimmy Brett of grain mer­chants Brett Broth­ers said he feels the tillage sec­tor is not “fully re­spected” by the agri­cul­tural sec­tor for the vi­tal role it plays.

“The danger with re­duced di­rect pay­ments, if it hap­pens, is that ce­re­als are ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble,” he warned, with a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of in­come com­ing from di­rect pay­ments.

“If there is a sig­nif­i­cant down­turn in di­rect pay­ments to them, I could see a lot of ce­real farm­ers go­ing out of busi­ness. It will hap­pen not just in Ire­land but in other parts of Europe,” he said.

Mr Brett said there was cur­rently a ma­jor prob­lem sourc­ing raw ma­te­ri­als for the milling in­dus­try, with dairy herds feed­ing heav­ily at the mo­ment.

Raw ma­te­ri­als

“If we didn’t have a stock of Ir­ish grain at the mo­ment, cat­tle and pigs would go hun­gry in this coun­try as we can’t get in sup­plies of other raw ma­te­ri­als, for ex­am­ple corn gluten and dis­tiller’s grains,” he said.

The event heard it was go­ing to be a “bat­tle” to en­sure all mem­ber states would agree to top up the EU bud­get to make up for the €12bn Brexit black hole.

Mr Ho­gan warned “una­nim­ity was needed” and cur­rently a num­ber of coun­tries such as Den­mark, Nether­lands and Swe­den do not want to put more money in to it.

“As the fig­ures stand at the mo­ment, and in the ab­sence of more money in the bud­get, there is no chance we are go­ing to get an in­crease in the bud­get and we are not go­ing to get in­dex­a­tion be­cause it hasn’t been in­dexed since 2005,” said Mr Ho­gan.

“I am be­ing re­al­is­tic and telling peo­ple here the truth — the truth is you are not go­ing to get in­fla­tion linked. What we want to try and do is hold what we have in the present cir­cum­stances.”

IFA pres­i­dent Joe Healy said farm­ers needed an in­crease in the CAP bud­get, as it was in fact for all EU cit­i­zens as it aided farm­ers in pro­vid­ing safe high-qual­ity food.

He pointed out it was “clear farm­ers are be­ing taken for granted” as the share of the EU bud­get that goes to CAP has fallen from 40pc to 34.6pc and has not “kept pace” with in­fla­tion. Mr Healy said farm­ers were will­ing to “play their part” in tack­ling is­sues such as cli­mate change but there must be no more rules.

Mr Ho­gan ac­knowl­edged the level of de­pen­dence on di­rect pay­ments, point­ing out he did not agree with the ar­gu­ments be­ing “trot­ted out” by some economists ar­gu­ing against di­rect pay­ments for farm­ing.

It fol­lows a com­mis­sion doc­u­ment that out­lined a num­ber of op­tions for the new seven-year bud­get post-2020, in­clud­ing cut­ting fund­ing by up to 30pc.

He said 100 changes had been brought in to sim­plify CAP with re­duced penal­ties for mi­nor er­rors and took the “cli­mate of fear” away for many farm­ers.

IFA Pres­i­dent Joe Healy ad­dresses the crowd at the IFA-EU Cit­i­zens’ Di­a­logue on the Fu­ture of CAP in O’Lough­lin Gaels GAA Club, Kilkenny.

EU Com­mis­sioner Phil Ho­gan and IFA Pres­i­dent Joe Healy at the IFA-EU event in Kilkenny.

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