Farmers ork protest warned of cuts to income if reforms go ahead


Farmers will see their livelihoods decimated if Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney caves in to the European Commission during negotiations on Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) reform, the Irish Farmers’ Association claimed at the weekend.

The warning came as more than 1,000 members gathered for a protest in Co Cork.

The farmers converged on Mr Coveney’s constituency office on Saturday amid concern that the Government is downplaying the full impact of Cap reform. The European Commission aims to change its payment method from one based on how much an individual farmer produces to a per hectare flat system.

Association president John Bryan said the proposals would take a huge amount of money from Irish farmers and result in cuts to the single farm payment for a lot of active farmers.

“We are saying to Simon Coveney that he gave a commitment to limit the cuts to about 8 per cent but at this stage between the cuts already conceded that add up to 9 per cent between new entrants, young farmers and linear cuts, the Minister is also taking about another 9 per cent on top of that.

‘Way too high’
“The two of them combined would mean cuts of more than 30per cent for individual farmers. Those cuts are way too high and the Minister has to take account of the cuts that have already taken place and limit any further cuts.”

The association insists that flat-rate payments per hectare will cost 80,000 of the country’s most active and productive farmers a combined ¤250 million.

Among the speakers at the protest was Alan Jagoe, Macra na Feirme president, who says the single farm payment must firstly support active farmers and not become a form of social welfare with a greater emphasis upon land ownership rather than the active farmer.

Mr Jagoe has also expressed concern about the absence of young farmers from the sector. “There are as many farmers over 80 as there are under 35. As young farmers the importance of Cap for us is the difference of being a farmer or not. There is for the first time a measure included to support young farmers and this mandatory measure has been endorsed by the European Parliament and the EU Commission. We now need a Council of Ministers, a council which Minister Coveney is chairman of, to do likewise and endorse this vital measure to support young farmers.”

Mr Jagoe is calling on Mr Coveney to maintain the focus of the negotiation upon active farmers and young farmers. He has also appealed to the Minister not to endorse a “blunt flat rate” approach to the Single Farm Payment, which lacks direction.

The protesters included Marian and Noel Looby from Cappoquin, Co Waterford, who fear that the EU proposals are flawed. Mr Looby said if negotiations fail to work in favour of Irish farmers the whole sector could be irreparably damaged.

‘Productive agriculture’
“Basically, now more than ever a strong productive agriculture is vital for this country. It is a critical time for us and we hope he

[Coveney] protects our livelihoods.”

Meanwhile, Mr Coveney met representatives of the association on Saturday after the protest. Prior to the demonstration the Minister had asked to address the crowd from the podium but this request was rejected by the association.

Mr Coveney said he was aware of the views of farmers and was actively advocating on their behalf. “They want to put me under as much pressure as possible to get the best deal possible and I understand that. I have no difficulty with intensive lobbying on important negotiations. I reject suggestions that I have changed my position.

“If anything I have hardened my position. It is fair to see some redistribution but we need to manage that in a way that doesn’t put productive farmers out of business and in a way that actually gives farmers who need a higher payment to stay in business that higher payment.”

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