Minister supports calls for reform of CAP in favour of small farms

 

Farming is going through a difficult period, but a new era for agriculture is dawning, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mr Walsh, said during one of the liveliest debates of the ardfheis.

He supported one motion calling for a complete reform of CAP in favour of small farmers and for subsidies to be directed to those who most needed them.

The Minister acknowledged that there was a need for income supplement. The Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs was a key person there because "Dermot Ahern has money", he said.

"You can take it for sure that there is no way Dermot can resist the pressure for this, and Charlie McCreevy as well," he said. There had been great pressure from the Fianna Fail backbenchers.

Mr Eamonn Scanlon, Longford-Roscommon, said he was speaking on behalf of the small abattoir owners. The number of slaughter houses was falling drastically, and he was asking the Minister to recognise the problem faced by these people. He wanted grant aid to avert a disaster waiting to happen.

Mr Frank Carty, Longford-Roscommon, said the present form of CAP was rewarding the big farmers, who were getting bigger. The small farmer must struggle to survive or forget about farming.

"As much as 80 per cent of subsidies went to 20 per cent of the richest farmers in Europe," he said. The aim of Fianna Fail was to establish as many families as possible on the land. Mr Richard Dunne, Tipperary North, called on the Minister to help them out in their crises. He said that Irish meat was of the finest quality.

He found it strange that anybody could buy Dutch ham in the local supermarket while the income of pig farmers down the road was dropping. Mr Thomas O Caoimh, Laois-Offaly, said it was imperative that the small slaughterers were kept in business. They had all seen the Avonmores and the Goodmans capitalise on Europe. They were the big players. The small man had to look for a small grant. These people deserved support.

It had been the policy a few years ago to get rid of the big ranches, but Fianna Fail was now overseeing the putting back together of those ranches at the expense of the small farmer. "We have to discontinue support to big farmers," he said.

Mr John O'Donnell, Mayo, said that rural renewal must start within agriculture, which was the backbone of rural areas.

Mr Seamus Coyle, Monaghan, said that incomes had fallen. "We hear that farmers are whingeing, but would any other sector accept incomes that they were getting 20 years ago? I don't think they would," he said.

In the pig sector there were disastrous prices, and at a recent mart sheep could not be sold because prices were so bad.

Mr Seamus Troy, Tipperary North, called for aid for young farmers, and Mr John Hanafin, Tipperary North, said that if there was no sustainable future for farmers there was no sustainable future for provincial towns.

Mr Paddy Rath, Wexford, said they should face up to a few realities.

"There are a number of things we can do. There needs to be a central selling agency to remove the cartel element of the selling of our beef," he said.