Leading figures from the agri industry joined forces in Dublin this morning to put pressure on Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to get the best possible deal on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy when talks get underway in Luxembourg on Monday.
Mr Coveney is aiming to secure agreement on the new farm policy deal between the European Commission, EU agriculture ministers and the European Parliament, before Ireland’s term as host of the EU presidency ends in less than two weeks.
IFA president John Bryan said productive farmers were looking at losing up to 25 per cent of their single farm payment under current plans but if European commissioner for agriculture Dacian Ciolos succeeded in his plan to introduce a minimum payment threshold for all farmers, these farmers could lose 35-40 per cent of their payment.
“The minister’s primary focus must be on defending Irish farmers and refusing to accept a deal that could disrupt productive agriculture even more,” he said.
He was joined by the leaders of bodies such as Teagasc, Dairygold, Dawn Meats, Liffey Mills, Meat Industry Ireland, and ICOS, which represents the co-op movement.
Teagasc director Prof Gerry Boyle said the scale of investment on farms was completely tied in with the availability of single farm payment.
“No matter what way you look at it, it’s very difficult to argue that there’s not a significant connection between the single farm payments and the productive base of our economy,”he said.
Animal feed company Liffey Mills’ managing director Pat Ryan said if there was a substantial reduction in the payments for the most productive farmers, who were his best customers “then we have a problem”.
A major drop in farm payments would affect veterinary practices, garages, tyre centres and agri-suppliers. He said derelict shopfronts in Fermanagh were painted to make it look like they were open before the G8 summit began “but if the single farm payment is reduced then we are going to require an awful lot more artwork in this country. There will be more closed down pubs, shops, units all over the place.”
Dairygold chief executive Jim Woulfe said the dairy processor was on the cusp of expansion and that expansion would be driven by people who were productive.
“The single farm payment is, in the vast majority of cases, a key pillar of the income that will be factored in to meet the repayments and meet the schedules for the expansion,” he said.