Comment: Are we sleep walking into a CAP reform disaster?

They say that ‘silence is golden’. But the lack of a constructive response from the IFA in questioning the CAP reform road along which the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney continues to take the Irish farming industry falls into the category of ‘the exception that proves the rule’. I am urged to raise this issue, given the Civil War scenario that has broken out North of the border on how best the future EU farm support measures should be apportioned.

At the heart of the raging CAP debate in Northern Ireland is the core issue of whether a single region or two region CAP model should be implemented. In essence, the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) is saying that a two region model, which would see lowland farmers treated separately from producers in the hills, will help ensure that the lion’s share of the Pillar One monies available through the CAP would be received by those farmers producing the bulk of the food. And in the context of an industry primed to grow significantly over the coming decades, this is the policy direction which the North’s farm minister Michelle O’ Neill should follow. I should also add that the Union is also proposing a coupled payment for suckler beef farmers in the severely disadvantaged areas.

It’s not for me to comment on which of the policy options on the table North of the border is the one with the best fit for agriculture as a whole in that part of the world. But, what does strike me as strange is the fact that the IFA has not tried bring the regionality issue to the table as part of the CAP reform debate in the Republic. In fact, I am doing the term ‘debate’ an injustice in the context of what has taken place since Simon Coveney launched the public consultation on the new CAP reform measures!

It seems to have been over looked that, this time around, Ireland will have almost total autonomy in determining what CAP measures are implemented on the ground, assuming they adhere to the broad framework agreed in Brussels last June.

The only person to have rocked the boat on this matter so far is Éamon Ó Cuív. But surely it’s the job of the IFA and the other farm lobby groups to take a similar approach? Yes there will be winners and losers, no matter what final arrangements are arrived at. But surely every farmer in the country should know what are the consequences of the myriad policy options that could be arrived at, rather than taking on trust that the number crunchers in the Department of Agriculture in Dublin and the IFA will always get it right!

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