Thousands of farmers expected at 'day of action'
THOUSANDS OF farmers are expected to converge on Dublin tomorrow for a protest organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association to highlight their concerns over the future of family farming. Traffic disruption is expected in the Merrion Square and St Stephen’s Green area and diversions will be place.
Dubbed the “Day of Action”, the IFA said the protest was being held to show the strength of feeling against Common Agriculture Policy (Cap) proposals from the European Commission and to call for no more cuts to farm schemes in the upcoming budget.
IFA president John Bryan said the protest would also focus on the “excessive” margin being taken by supermarket chains to the detriment of farmers and growers. Last year, about 8,000 farmers protested in Dublin over their treatment by the grocery multiples but this protest is expected to be larger. It will include tractors, milk lorries, cattle trucks and harvesters from all parts of the State. The farm organisation has asked members to close their farms for the day and defer sending milk and other produce out.
Mr Bryan said the vast majority of dairy co-ops, beef, lamb, pig and poultry processors, grain merchants and livestock marts would not be accepting farm produce tomorrow in a show of solidarity. This is not expected to cause any significant food shortages for consumers.
Bus-loads of farmers will assemble in Merrion Square South at 11.30am before marching around the square, up Merrion Street past Government Buildings and down Kildare Street to the gates of Leinster House where the crowd will be addressed by Mr Bryan and other farming figures. They are expected to start dispersing from about 2pm onwards.
A Farming Independent survey at the National Ploughing Championships found widespread support for the Day of Action but more than 40 per cent were concerned that it would be viewed negatively by the public. Mr Bryan acknowledged the difficult budgetary situation facing all sectors of society but said the Government’s agriculture budget had been unfairly targeted. It had been cut by over 40 per cent since 2008, compared with an average 10 per cent across all Government departments.
“Previous cuts to farm schemes have been totally disproportionate, and are now hitting the lowest income sector of agriculture hard. Farmers are sending a message to Minister Coveney that he cannot cut the schemes any further,” he said.
“The consequences of the disastrous summer and the escalating input costs had put massive pressure on farm incomes, and the Government have failed totally in its promise to farmers to address the dominance of the retail multiples through effective regulation.”
However, the main focus of the protest will be on the European Commission Cap proposals which, Mr Bryan said, would “decimate the incomes of tens of thousands of the most productive farmers, and slash the rural development funding that is so critical to vulnerable sectors and regions”.