Opinion

Creed confirms the need for farm support budgets to be maintained

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, has said that Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) support budgets must be maintained at current levels in Ireland, once Brexit becomes a reality. And he’s absolutely right.

Farmers will not be able to withstand a combined squeeze in support prices and the inexorable pressure on farmgate prices at the same time.

But which of the EU27 member states will be prepared to cough up the extra contributions required to bridge the funding gap?

Or put another way, will Ireland be one of the first countries out of the traps, volunteering to make additional contributions to the EU’s exchequer?

Brexit was always going to bring the issue of how Europe future-funds itself into sharp relief. And Ireland will have to play its part in making sure that the coffers don’t come under pressure.

From a farming perspective, the issue of the EU’s future budgetary requirements should be considered in tandem with the recently-published CAP White Paper and omnibus regulations.

Both highlight the potential for individual member states to deliver tailored support measures, in order to best meet the bespoke requirements of farmers in the various regions.

In my opinion, this should be taken as code to permit individual member states bolster national farm support budgets, if required. Let’s hope that Michael Creed thinks the same way.

Such an approach would allow Ireland, for example, to fund much-needed measures for the suckler and tillage sectors.

It really shouldn’t take much effort on the part of the Irish government to persuade tax payers of the benefits to be gleaned from having a fully-functioning agricultural industry on their back doorsteps.

In many ways, production agriculture has been the poor relation of most other economic sectors in Ireland, when it comes to the national funding streams made available to it.

Currently, every farming job supports at least four others in the food processing and allied service industries. So it would be naive in the extreme for the Irish government not to show solidarity with farmers and deny them the support funds required to ensure their survival for the future.

Meanwhile, it’s up to Brussels to ensure that a CAP framework is put in place, one which allows EU farmers do what they do best – produce food of the highest quality.

Farmers, increasingly, realise the need to have paper trails in place that verify their commitment to environmental sustainability, traceability from farm-to-plate and the maintenance of the highest possible animal welfare standards.

But all of this comes at a cost, which farmers cannot be expected to pay continuously from their own back pockets.