Decisions taken over the coming weeks will – quite literally – determine the future viability of most farming businesses in Ireland. Last June we got the outline of the CAP reform deal from Brussels: the challenge now is implementing all of this in a way that best suits the needs of local farmers. And the clock is ticking!

The new measures must be become reality at the beginning of the 2015/2016 financial year. This means that Agricultural Minister Simon Coveney must sign off on an agreed package of measures within weeks, so as to allow the required legislation to be ratified by the Dáil.

Space limitations prevent me from analysing the myriad policy options that confront the Minister and the various stakeholder organisations. This is detail that must be discussed in their totality during the period ahead. However, I firmly believe that there is a more over riding principle which must be confronted by the groups involved in the CAP process – and that is the atmosphere in which the negotiations take place

The ongoing debacle that is the current debate’ on co-founding the next rural development programme must not be repeated when it comes to finalising the new CAP arrangements. The last number of years have confirmed beyond all doubt that most farmers in Ireland would no longer be in business, had it not been for the support made available by way of the Single Farm Payment Scheme. The figures quite clearly show that, even in a good year, market returns will – at best – put farm businesses in a breakeven position. And in a bad year, and we have had many of these to look back on over the last decade, the Single Farm Payment was the lifeline to survival for many producers.

The row before Christmas regarding the decisions taken by a number of retailers to slash the price of fresh vegetables is further proof that the market cannot be relied upon to deliver for farmers on a sustainable basis. Whether or not the government decides to appoint a Supermarket adjudicator to address this matter on a proactive basis is a subject for another day.

However, there is absolutely no doubt that every Irish farmer needs effective Single Farm Payment support moving forward.

These are thoughts that should be uppermost in the minds of all our farming leaders over the coming weeks!