The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said that Ireland’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan, as submitted by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue and approved by the EU Commission today (Wednesday, August 31), is a step in the wrong direction that will “undermine” food production.

President of the association, Tim Cullinan said: “The new eco-schemes which are funded by a 25% cut from each farmer’s basic payment is a step too far. The minister could have reduced this cut to below 15% but he chose not to.

“The impact of the eco-schemes along with further convergence, front loading and greater conditionality will hit a cohort of our most productive farmers the hardest.

“The eco-scheme measures themselves are designed for low output or to reduce output and will not be practical for many farmers,” he said.

Criticism of CAP Strategic Plan

The IFA has stressed that a number of the new schemes including the suckler cow, sheep and environmental schemes are underfunded.

“The new much trumpeted environmental scheme ACRES [Agri Climate Rural Environmental Scheme] is a bureaucratic monster and needs changes to ensure it is workable for farmers,” Cullinan continued.

The IFA president also said that the onus is now on the minister and his department to ensure the gaps created by the plan are covered by additional national funding.

“While today’s announcement from the European Commission is significant, there is no doubt that the real focus is on Minister McConalogue and the Department of Agriculture [Food and the Marine], to ensure that any shortcomings from the plan are covered by national funding,” Cullinan stated.

“The upcoming national budget is an opportunity for the government to make up some of the shortfalls arising from the new CAP.

“As we have seen over the past 12 months, the landscape of farming and the economy can drastically change, and it continues to do so.

“This plan needs to have flexibility and be adaptable to any future changes, this is something that [Agriculture] Commissioner [Janusz] Wojciechowski also reiterated when he addressed IFA back in May.”

The IFA will also meet with Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohue and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath this Friday (September 2) to discuss the upcoming budget.