Sinn Fein MEP Matt Cathy has said that 30% of all European farmers would cease farming if direct payments were withdrawn.

The MEP for the Midlands and North West said that the European Commission needs to be aware of the fact that Pillar One payments are keeping small farmers and rural areas alive.

Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, made the comments following a vote on Thursday.

The vote, which saw a report entitled: How the CAP can Help to Create Rural Jobs, received overwhelming support of MEPs in Brussels.

Carthy, who was involved in the writing of the policy document, said job creation in agriculture and rural areas is becoming an important point of debate.

The Sinn Fein MEP said there are numerous paragraphs in the document which highlight the dropping number of farmers in rural areas over the past decade.

He also said that these rural areas were disproportionately devastated in terms of jobs by austerity measures and there is a very low income per labour unit for agricultural activities at present.

“I have called for a fairer distribution of Pillar 1 payments, for measures to address issues identified in the Commission’s Report on the Needs of Young Farmers, and for simplified and stronger measures to protect local produce.

“With regard to rural development, the Resolution now calls for the bottom-up approach to LEADER programmes to be restored, increased support for cooperatives, and for region specific flexibility to be restored in the Second Pillar,” he said.

Farmers also operate in an increasingly global market place, he said, and experience a far greater exposure to volatility than other sectors.

“The Commission has today been warned that deals such as TTIP, CETA and Mercosur pose direct threats to job creation and threaten traditional farming models in rural areas.

The changes that these trade deals would bring would work against policies aimed at stimulating local production and supporting agricultural livelihoods in Ireland.

“This Resolution will be debated in the European Parliament’s Plenary session by a full sitting of MEPs with the European Commission at the end of October.

“I will press to ensure that these crucial elements remain included in the final text.

“There is an opportunity to ensure that the Common Agricultural policy plays an important role in the creation and maintenance of jobs in rural Ireland and across Europe. It must be seized,” he said.