Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue is being urged to “let farmers decide what they want” in terms of implementing the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The Irish Beef and Lamb Association (IBLA) made the call in relation to the recent deal struck on CAP last week.

In a statement where it said it “recognises the challenge ahead” for Minister McConalogue in “finding a position that suits all the dominant farm organisations, who are also divided on the distribution of CAP funding”, the group said:

“No longer can the chosen few in our society be protected at the cost of the many small family farms throughout Ireland.”

The organisation said: “The recent IBLA online survey relating to CAP and to define how it should be distributed in Ireland, has shown clearly how the wider farming diaspora are thinking about CAP.”

According to the IBLA survey results, 81.9% of respondents said they favoured full convergence i.e. direct payments brought up to 100% of the national average.

5% of respondents said they favoured 85% convergence, while 13.6% said they preferred no convergence at all, the group said.

Continuing, the association said that, if the minister has any doubts about consulting farmers further, he “has the technical capacity through his department and also through the Central Statistics Office (CSO), to conduct a farm referendum on the issues” to collect the preferred options of the Irish farmers.

Highlighting the resources at the disposal of the CSO to conduct a referendum, the IBLA suggested that the office could “correlate these results to obtain the will of Irish farmers on how they see the best and fairest distribution of CAP funding”.

In that process, it could “define what the best result for them from the current CAP process can be”, the group added.

“The EU has given each member the autonomy to find and put in place, the best approach for their own farmers.

“This must be carried out in a fair, transparent and democratic way. It is time to let farmers decide what they want. IBLA is the only farm organisation to conduct a survey for farmers to gather their preferred options.

“The Minister for Agriculture must carry out the same to allow true democracy take place and allow the farmers have their voice heard on this CAP deal,” the organisation concluded.