Voting Yes to fiscal treaty in farming's best interests
OPINION: I AM a strong believer in doing everything possible to build confidence and goodwill for our sector and our country.
A Yes vote on May 31st for the fiscal stability treaty is the best option if we hope to retain the necessary confidence for inward investment which is so vital for jobs and growth. A Yes vote will also build further goodwill in the European Union as the Government works to secure long-term sustainable support to assist in our economic recovery.
Farmers need a stable, competitive business environment, with access to affordable interest rates and the goodwill of EU customers to buy our growing agricultural exports. The Irish Farmers’ Association has brought together the leaders of our farming and agri-business to present a strong and united consensus for a Yes vote to underpin our €9 billion in food exports and the 300,000 jobs in the sector.
Since 2008, farm families have taken massive and disproportionate cuts in income-related farm schemes, combined with a raft of new taxes and levies, which are hitting all working families hard. However, on this occasion, I am asking farm families to separate these issues from the fiscal treaty decision, as a protest vote can only lead to business instability and harsher measures for all Irish families within a shorter time frame. The association will continue to work to find acceptable solutions to the day-to-day problems of farming.
Our Government must do more to support production. And our farming and food sectors must be targeted for investment to deliver on the Government’s own growth targets and to provide sustainable jobs and exports into the future.
Jobs and services must be prioritised and incentives and reward for hard work protected. In securing any future support from Europe for growth, a minimum requirement is for a fully-funded Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) after 2014. I have left Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney in no doubt about farmer expectations in this regard. A Yes vote will strengthen our hand in these negotiations.
Undoubtedly, we have a long and difficult road ahead to recovery. The challenges we face are enormous, but the continued support of our European colleagues is vital. From my engagement with officials and politicians in Brussels and elsewhere, I get a solid sense of goodwill for our efforts to stabilise the economy.
Recently, for example, I met farm leaders in Germany. In our broader discussions beyond the future of the Cap, it was clear they saw Ireland in a positive and different light and acknowledged the action we have taken. Our Government must build on this goodwill.
Just last week, Joseph Daul MEP addressed our executive council on the future of Europe and the future of the Cap, which are two issues he sees as very much interlinked. As the leader of the influential European People’s Party group in the parliament, he has tremendous goodwill towards Ireland and our sector in particular. We should harness that by endorsing the treaty.
Our agri-sector has ambitious targets for growth and an acceptable solution to the Cap reform under negotiation is vital. Access to credit at a competitive rate will be vital for the investment required to make this a reality. Dairy expansion, for example, will require funding of €1.5 billion at farm level.