CAP an ‘obvious target’ with tillage farmers vulnerable
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.
“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.