ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has told Minister Charlie McConalogue that the CAP Strategic Plan proposals “are not doing enough for the suckler, beef, and sheep sectors”.

Kelleher said that it is “patently obvious that the plan is flawed; it is totally imbalanced, and it simply delivers nothing meaningful for active cattle and sheep farmers”.

Minister McConalogue, together with senior Department of Agriculture officials, met with farm organisations at the Backweston Campus in Kildare this week to discuss CAP and the recent carbon budget announcements.

Kelleher said the ICSA has been arguing for greater CAP payments for those sectors most reliant on CAP supports, and those achieving the most on climate action.

“There are over 100,000 low-income farmers in this country, and they need to be supported with a fairer CAP plan.

“The ICSA has proposed a €300/suckler cow payment; a €35/ewe payment; a €100/head beef finisher payment, and a worthwhile agri-environment scheme.”

Best framework upon which to build the next CAP

On the agri-environment scheme, he added: “ICSA argued very strongly for a higher maximum payment. Payments have been whittled away from REPS through to GLAS and this trend must stop.

“ICSA pointed out that there is a very real risk that the current DAFM proposals run the risk of considerable underspend in the rural development programme for the first two years.

“Given all that is being asked of farmers on climate and biodiversity, this is very wrong. Farmers must be paid more for the climate action measures they undertake, not less.”

He said that the ICSA’s proposals provide “the best framework upon which to build the next CAP” for Irish farm families.

“The minister must now explain how he proposes to move forward and demonstrate that he is listening to the majority of farmers in Ireland who want better supports for the low-income cattle and sheep sectors,” Kelleher added.

Farmers ‘entitled to be confused’

Meanwhile, following the briefing, president of the ICMSA Pat McCormack said that the “continuing lack of options around a workable and attractive eco-scheme had become downright puzzling”.

McCormack said that farmers “were entitled to be confused by the government’s position which seemed to involve pleading and regulating farmers to become ever more environmentally aware while not coming forward with the scheme that would make that shared objective more possible”.  

The ICMSA president said that while indications were given that additional options will be made available, farmers “deserve and need to see the detail at this stage and any options must be realistic, fair and, crucially, available to all farmers”.

“The consensus right across every commentator and expert is that we need feasible eco-scheme options that are going to be realistic and attractive to commercial farmers – and commercial dairy farmers in particular,” he said.   

“Why don’t we have such a scheme? What’s the problem and what’s the hold-up?”

Pointing out that the government and the EU had “habitually looked to schemes as the preferred method of meeting agreed policy objectives”, McCormack said that there was an “incoherence here that had to be resolved”.

“We need a range of these options as soon as possible and they should – they must – reach out to the commercial family farms who are such a decisive element of our overall farm sector and who are facing very considerable losses under this CAP reform.   

“If the kind of ambitions that we keep hearing about are to be even contemplated – much less achieved – then we have to start gearing policy around eco-schemes and agri-environment schemes towards the farmers that are such a significant part of overall output.   

“That has to happen in tandem with a strong dairy dimension to TAMS and any other means by which we can transition our commercial family dairy farms through the next decade and onto the lower emissions basis.”

McCormack re-iterated ICMSA concerns in relation to the inclusion of dairy investments in the new on-farm investment scheme and said that serious engagement and work is required in the coming weeks to resolve the “many outstanding issues” in relation to CAP.

“We are a long way short of where we need to be on, specifically, eco-schemes, the agri-environment scheme and grant aid for farm investments,” concluded.