Farmers are concerned that the debate around the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is “being hijacked by vested interests – including within government”, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA).

Commenting on the matter, ICMSA president Pat McCormack said that a “sense of realism” urgently needs to be brought to the debate.

McCormack said that, based on the most up-to-date reports, Irish agriculture is headed towards a “situation where thousands of farm families across the entire country will suffer substantial cuts to their direct payments and incomes, while having to meet new and unsurpassed levels of inspection and regulation”, adding:

“Based on what we’re hearing as of now, we’re headed towards less payments for much more regulation and absolutely nothing for meaningful sustainability.

“The current CAP proposals will deliver for consultants and people involved in enforcement, but will critically undermine farmers unless changes are made.

“The minister must bring a sense of realism to the debate that delivers a CAP for sustainable farming,” McCormack added.

The president said he is “very concerned that the CAP debate is being hijacked by vested interests – including within government – who were intent on turning CAP into an unworkable environmental policy”.

The current proposals are not just neutral, but worse, he added.

“The government in general, and our Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine in particular, have to get a hold of this issue.

“They could start by remembering that the primary purpose of CAP is to deliver safe and sustainable food from a farm sector while ensuring proportionate incomes for the farmer primary-producers.

The president turned attention to documents presented at the CAP Consultative Committee and the current proposals from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.

These, he said, “are heavily weighted towards consultant input at farm level, inspection, regulation and enforcement, while being notably light on the funding for the farmers expected to carry out this work”.

McCormack said that the level of reality being brought to the question had actually declined, adding:

“It was always frankly unrealistic to ask farmers to do much, much, more for the same payment. But the suggestion now is that the farmers do much, much, more for less money.

“This is the kind of nonsense that’s just bringing the whole question of CAP into disrepute and making it absurd.”