The Government has the latitude under the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) to do more to help farmers, the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association has said.
Tim Cullinan said Ireland needs the Government to use that latitude to help both productive and vulnerable farmers at a crucial time for Irish agriculture.
Mr Cullinan was speaking after he led a delegation to meet European Union commissioner for financial stability, financial services and capital markets union Mairead McGuinness in Dublin last week.
Among the issues discussed at the meeting were Cap reform, input prices, the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, taxonomy – the practice and of categorisation – and live exports.
“While Cap reform has more or less concluded at EU level, we stressed to Mairead McGuinness that the Irish Government needs to use the latitude negotiated in the agreement to do more to support productive farmers and the vulnerable sectors,” Mr Cullinan said.
In addition, member states should be allowed to use the flexibility available to them, “rather than feeling pressurised to implement the targets in the EU Farm to Fork plan, which are not binding”, he said.
“We also highlighted our concern about escalating input prices on farm margins, and the need for the EU to remove anti-dumping duties that apply on fertiliser coming into the EU,” he said.
While the allocation to Ireland under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve was certainly welcomed by farmers, Mr Cullinan said it was yet unclear within the terms and conditions how farmers will qualify.
“Farmers have not felt the full brunt of Brexit so far, but the trade deals the UK are doing and the impact this could have on Irish farmers in the period ahead is concerning,” he said.
“We emphasised the challenges posed by the removal of UK concessions through 2022, as well as concerns about Irish producers being able to secure seed potatoes from the UK.”
The importance of the classification of agricultural activities under the EU’s Taxonomy Plan, which Ms McGuinness has responsibility for, was also raised at the meeting.
“In light of the recent recommendations on live exports by the European Parliament subcommittee on animal welfare, we stressed the strategic importance of live exports to Ireland as an island nation,” he concluded.