No country, including Ireland, would get everything it wanted in reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap), Simon Coveney said today.
He was speaking as EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos visited Dublin ahead of next week's crucial meeting of agriculture ministers to try and agree a common approach to Cap.
Some 300 farmers held a protest outside Dublin Castle this morning to coincide with the commissioner’s visit.
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) says some 60,000 farmers will lose at least a quarter of their single farm payments as a result Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) proposals.
The Eu ropean Commission wants to change its payment method from one based on how much an individual farmer produces to a flat per hectare system.
Mr Ciolos said today that the flat rate was a matter of “equity” and “principle”.
Mr Coveney said as Irish minister he still held “real concern” as to the impact of the move to a flat rate payment but as president of the council he had to find a “middle ground” next week.
Mr Coveney said proposals would mean a “fairer redistribution” of payments but would need to be managed so farmers losing large protions of income would not be put out of business.
Minimum payments was something the which he and Mr Ciolos would “agree to disagree on” for the moment. Whether a compromise had a mimium payment “remained to be seen”, he said.
IFA president John Bryan described the proposals as "savage" and "absolutely unacceptable".
“A large proportion of what is taken from productive farmers will be redistributed to inactive farmers, who don’t depend on farming for a living,” and would render thousands of the most productive farmers unviable, Mr Bryan said.
The IFA estimates about 42,000 farmers receiving average payments of less than ¤12,000 would lose some ¤3,000, while 17,000 farmers would take cuts of over 40 per cent, he said.
“We need a compromise that deals with the Irish position,” he said.
However Mr Ciolos emphasised that all such money would remain in Ireland but would be redistributed among Irish farmers.
At the protest amid snow showers farmers held placards reading "Ciolos your cuts will destroy productive agriculture". There was a surge in the crowd as they were served with hot soup. "There will be a lot more queuing for soup if this goes through," IFA family farm chairwoman Margaret Healy told protesters.
Livestock farmer Henry Burns from Mountmellick, Co Laois, told protesters that while the weather would change quickly, the chill the commissioner was bringing with the cuts would remain for "up to seven years" and "put people out of business". Mr Ciolos had been sent a "very clear message" that farmers of Ireland will reject any cuts, Mr Bryan said.