Tipperary farm leader welcomes Programme for Government but says it lacks specifics

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Tipperary farm leader welcomes Programme for Government but says it lacks specifics

ICMSA president Pat McCormack: 'We will work as closely as we’re allowed, but we’ll watch even closer'

The Tipperary farmer who serves as president of ICMSA, Pat McCormack, said that farmers would be reassured by the tone of several of the passages dealing with agriculture in the proposed Programme for Government agreed between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.

He described the programme as detailed in its scope and ambition.

Mr McCormack said that efforts had been made to avoid the kind of crude "farmer-bashing" that many had feared and that had to be acknowledged.

However, Mr. McCormack said that was balanced by a troubling lack of specifics on the question of how farmers would be paid to help lower emissions among other objectives and nowhere was this lack more obvious than on the question of the REPs-type scheme envisaged in the programme.

“Obviously, the programme can’t go into micro-detail, we understand that. But it is already obvious that if this scheme is to be meaningful then it is going to have to accommodate over 70,000 farmers -including commercial farmers - and the funding will have to reflect that number of participants and the step-change such a scheme represents.

"In other words, it’s is going to be serious expenditure commensurate with the seriousness of the challenge and ambition and ICMSA believes that the political parties should spell out their specific proposals on this matter. The funding allocated will reveal whether this new scheme is a real option for farmers. Clarity on this is hugely important," said Mr McCormack.   

The document covered a vast amount of issues around agriculture and ICMSA was concerned about how all these issues will be addressed while maintaining the economic viability of farmers and rural areas, he said.

ICMSA will obviously be looking very closely at any implications for our ability to farm sustainably under the Nitrates Directive and we will also look very closely at the wording committing the Government to actual regulation and enforcement of fair margins on the food supply as opposed to the hopeless handwringing that is all we’ve got for years, said Mr McCormack, who farms outside Tipperary Town.

ICMSA’s concerns arose from previous false promises on this issue and those previous failures to carry through cannot be repeated, he said.

“ICMSA wants to believe that this can be a new start for the relationship between environmental concerns and family farms but that can only be on the basis of mutual respect and a willingness to accept uncomfortable realities. Policies and solutions must come from an understanding of context and pragmatism - and not ideology imposed from outside or above. We will work as closely as we’re allowed, but we’ll watch even closer," said Mr McCormack.