Tim Cullinan: has outlined IFA's key election demands
The newly-installed Tipperary president of the IFA, Tim Cullinan, has put the next Government on notice about what it expects it to deliver to the agri-sector.
Over its lifetime, the Government will make decisions which will have huge implications for Irish agriculture, he said.
The Brexit focus now moves to the future trading relationship between Ireland and the UK, whose market is of critical importance to our farmers.
"We must secure a future trading relationship which gives us continued tariff free access to the UK market and which does not result in the UK opening its markets to sub-standard product from outside of Europe," said Mr Cullinan.
He said that the Government must be steadfast in achieving these objectives. It’s also a reality that Irish farmers have already taken a huge hit due to Brexit. The BEAM scheme which compensated some beef farmers only applied to animals supplied before May 12, 2019. A second scheme is needed for farmers who supplied cattle after this date.
During 2020, it’s likely that the overall EU budget and the CAP budget for 2021-2027 will be approved. This decision will have fundamental consequences for farmers, particularly in the vulnerable sectors beef, sheep and grain.
"Our Government must fight for an increased CAP budget to at least cover inflation and the costs of any additional asks on farmers. Once the EU budget is decided, the Irish Government will be required to co-finance certain programmes and schemes," said Mr Cullinan, who farms outside Toomevara. "They must fund these to the maximum extent allowable under the CAP and state aid rules. In 2019, CAP programmes and schemes delivered over €1.8bn to Irish farmers. After the next reform, this figure must exceed €2bn if farmers are to have any chance of reaching living standards equivalent to others in society."
He said that we must channel the money to active farmers.
"We cannot have money leaking to those who are not genuinely farming or indeed to service providers. The money must get to farmers who are doing the work to provide top-quality safe food while respecting the environment and biodiversity," he said.
Describing climate Change as a huge challenge for the globe, particularly against a background of a growing world population. Mr Cullinan said that it was clear that a lot more food will be needed.
"Ireland is ideally placed to produce food. It makes no sense to limit food production in Ireland when we know that it will not be produced in as carbon efficient fashion in other countries. Irish farmers have made huge strides in terms of increasing our carbon efficiency. We are willing to do more and we have a clear roadmap from Teagasc," he said.
The policy focus needs to be on improving carbon efficiency, not on the size of the national herd. Irish farmers have created and are manage a huge carbon sink through our pasture land and our hedgerows. Farmers are getting no credit for this, which has to change.
Mr Cullinan pointed out that Irish farmers had huge potential to provide renewable energy.
However, he aid, the Government was focused on designing support schemes which were encouraging large scale projects.
"We need an immediate and coherent plan to put farm scale renewables at the centre of policy," he said.
The Government also needs to address the imbalance in the food chain which is driving farmers out of business.
"We urgently need an independent food chain regulator which will shortly be required under the EU Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Directive. We must extend the remit of this office to include tackling below cost selling, unsustainable discounting and misleading retail labelling and branding," said the IFA leader.
The Fair Deal Scheme is fundamentally unfair for farmers. With the dissolution of the Dail, this issue has fallen. This is a huge blow to many families whose farms are being decimated by the scheme. The new Government needs to move on this legislation as a top priority and its effects must be retrospective.
Finally, IFA wants to put down a marker on live exports.
"We are an island nation and we must be able to continue to export live animals. This is vital to ensure competition. Any curtailing of exports, which are highly regulated, will play into the hands of meat processors and will directly impact on farm livelihoods. The next Government must have a clear plan to grow live exports, not limit them," he said.