Will Irish farming and rural support be ‘sacrificed’ in EU deal? – ICMSA

The president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack, has expressed concern that, in what he called the “understandable enthusiasm” for concluding a deal around overall EU funding, that Irish farming and rural support will be sacrificed.

He said that “while it was premature to call the matter, it did look suspiciously like Pillar II Common Agricultural Policy [CAP] funds were being targeted as an easy source of monies to be diverted to other funds” and this, he noted, was “on top of the existing proposal to reduce Pillar I payments”.

McCormack added that farmers and rural communities were “looking on anxiously as the feeling grew that the system of supports – direct and indirect – that maintained their economic and social viability seemed to have been put ‘on the table’.

“This is due to the battle between the ‘Frugal Four’ [Austria; Denmark; Sweden; and the Netherlands] and other member states.”

‘Swings and roundabouts’

McCormack continued: “Within the context of Ireland being a net contributor, the Taoiseach needs to be fully aware that there’s not much point in maintaining or increasing Covid-19 related EU support for certain sectors of the Irish economy.

The ICMSA accepts that there has to be a degree of ‘swings and roundabouts’ in something as complex as these negotiations, but it’s a question of where the money ‘swings’ from and what ’roundabout’ brings what to who.

“We know that the question is one of overall national interest but, within that, the government has to realise and act on the reality that it’s the farming and food sectors that totally underpin the economy outside of the cities and bigger towns,” McCormack continued.

“That needs to be recognised, accepted and incorporated into our approach to the headings – under which final funding will be allocated.

“Special provisions may have to be agreed ensuring that our CAP budget, both Pillar I and Pillar II, are at least maintained at existing levels.”