CAP priorities: ‘Drystock farmers are doing more and more for less and less’

The static income figures for drystock farmers revealed in the Teagasc Farm Survey for 2017 demonstrates where Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) supports need to be directed, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

Commenting on the matter, ICSA president Patrick Kent said: “The differential between the different farming systems is growing.

Comparing like with like, the average per hectare income from dairying at €1,530 is 4.75 times higher than sheep farming at €322, and 4.2 times higher than cattle rearing at €364.

“Beef finishing systems are slightly better at €451 per hectare.”

The president called for CAP post-2020 to address this “huge inequality”, adding that more supports from both Pillars I and II must be directed at low-income sectors.

“We would question whether the ANC payment should be spread so thinly. Apart from the challenge of farming marginal land, the payment should also be more closely aligned with supporting the farmers with the lowest profitability,” Kent said.

Annual incomes averaging as low as €16,897 for sheep farmers, €16,651 for beef farmers and €12,680 for suckler farmers reveal the stark reality for the majority of our cattle and sheep farmers.

The president said that direct payments on dairy farms are actually marginally higher than on cattle and sheep farms – despite the fact that the average dairy farm derives 23% of income from direct payments compared to a reliance on direct payments of 93% of income on beef farms.

“Worse still, on cattle rearing and sheep farms’ direct payments equate to 113% of income,” he said.

“While everybody celebrates the opening of new markets for beef and lamb, the reality is hitting home that the primary producers of these products are not benefitting whatsoever.

With exports hitting record levels year on year, the maths are simple – beef and sheep farmers really are doing more and more for less and less.

“It’s obvious the margins from the food chain are skewed with beef and lamb producers faring the worst and this will have to be addressed.”

“However, the stand-out issue is that CAP payments will have to be re-jigged to target the low-income sectors and this must be central to the CAP reform.”