Following the release of the proposed details of the Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plan (CSP) this week, the reactions have been very mixed, with some farm organisations happier than others, but nobody 100% pleased with the shape of the next CAP

The most stringent criticism of the proposed plan has probably come from the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) – so much so that the association formally held protests at the three most recent mart appearances by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.

The IFA protested at Tullow Mart, Co. Carlow and Kilkenny mart on Thursday (October 21), and at Mid-Tipperary Mart in Thurles yesterday (Friday, October 22).

The protests are largely focused on proposed measures in Pillar I of CAP, and how they will potentially take away from direct payments – such as convergence; ‘front-loaded’ payments on the first 30ha for 10% of the entire Pillar I budget; and a 25% allocation of the Pillar I budget to an optional eco-scheme.

However, these protests have been criticised as focusing on farmers with larger payments, with some arguing that farmers on smaller payments – primarily in the west of the country – will largely benefit from the CAP proposals.

The Irish Beef and Lamb Association (IBLA) remarked today (Saturday, October 23) that it is “observing a clear divide emerging across the country”.

“Farmers are being asked to protest at Minister McConalogue’s mart meetings, meetings that the minister has organised to seek farmer opinion on the next CAP,” the group said.

“Farmers need to ask the question: What is it that they are being asked to protest against?”

“While those holding the large cheques and those who represent them are shouting about protest that the next CAP will wipe out viable farms, it is our point of view that small family farms up and down the length of this country are entitled to their fair share of the CAP budget as well,” said IBLA spokesperson Dermot O’Brien.

Claiming that the farmers most likely to oppose the CAP measures are located in the south-east of the country, O’Brien said: “We can identify thousands of active farmers in the rest of the country, who get up in the middle of the night and before dawn to get a few hours’ work down, before starting a day’s work off-farm and to return again that evening, to continue on a days’ work until darkness.

“These farmers deserve a fair share of the next CAP budget in our opinion. So farmers should be very clear on what they protest about,” he added.

Despite that, the IBLA did reserve some criticism of their own on the CAP proposals, arguing that a proposed rate of payment convergence of 85% “does not go far enough”.