The general secretary of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has accused the European Commission of being “detached” from farmers.

Eddie Punch made the comments at the Global Food Forum this week in Brussels which was organised by Farm Europe.

The two-day event, taking place ahead of the European elections in June, called for the development of an ambitious European farm deal.

Among those in attendance were EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski, along with David Clarinval, deputy prime minister and Minister of Agriculture, Belgium, which currently holds the EU presidency.

They were joined by key figures from EU institutions, national ministers, farm organisations and business leaders.


In his response to the Commissioner Wojciechowski and the Belgian presidency of the EU, Eddie Punch took aim at the lack of engagement by the EU Commission with the farmers.

“As we come to the end of another commission mandate, I look back at the last four-and-a-half-years and I wonder how did it get so bad that the commission became so detached from the practitioners on the ground?

“How is it that you have been expert in shadow consultation with keyboard warriors, but not listening or engaging in a real way with the practitioners on the ground?

“You know this now because you see the tractors on the streets. But you should not have to be shocked and surprised.

“The farmers are angry all over Europe at the confluence of policies that have shown disrespect for the people who put food on the table,” he said.

Convoy of tractors during Spanish protests
Convoy of tractors during protest in Spain Image Source: COAG via X

Punch told the conference that farmers are being asked to do more on sustainability, biodiversity and climate change while being expected to continue to produce food “at prices that are not sustainable economically”.

“We have had a crisis of inflation and input costs,” he said.

Punch said that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget has been “eroded by inflation” over the past decade.

“A CAP budget that was meant to be for farmers to produce food so that there would be cheap food available for consumers. Throughout the last four years we have seen the CAP budget raided again and again,” he said.

He added that treating farmers as if they were large industrial production units under the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) was “a ridiculous concept”.

“How has this commission become so detached from the reality of practitioners on the ground that we have seen proposal after proposal that is obviously based on a detachment from the people who must implement this?

“Even today I see the European Food Safety Authority report on animal welfare and it is clear that they have not discussed practical realities with farmers.

“They have figures there for example for the space per cow which is completely out of touch with reality. They clearly have not discussed this with the practitioners on the ground,” he said.

It is understood that the EFSA report recommends that each dairy cow be allocated 9m2 in sheds which the ICSA general secretary said would not make economical or environmental sense.

“Is there any pause for reflection in the commission that you have got it so wrong over the last four years and what are you going to do to change it now?” Punch asked.