Representatives of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have travelled to Brussels today to seek “fairness for Irish farmers” as Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) trilogue negotiations get underway.

Five INHFA members, including president Colm O’Donnell, are in Brussels until Saturday to meet with Irish MEPs and to lobby on behalf of the 73,000 farmers who they say will benefit from full convergence, which is being pushed by the European Parliament.

However the European Council is seeking 85% convergence.

“We are at a very important juncture for Irish farmers,” INHFA spokesperson, Henry O’Donnell told Agriland, from Brussels.

“We are here because we want to delve into the middle of it now, and find out what is going on here. We have had a lot of contact with our MEPs in relation to the big issues for us.”

Some of those big issues include: as mentioned above, full convergence; front-loaded redistribution through the Complementary Redistributive Income Support for Sustainability, or CRISS; a flat rate/ha eco-scheme that is accessible to all farmers and land types; improved payments in schemes such as Areas of Natural Constraint, agri-environmental schemes; and suckler and sheep welfare.

Convergence is a sticking point, however.

Speaking in Brussels today, the INHFA president, Colm O’Donnell said:

“We are here to lobby the European Commissioner and European Parliament negotiators in the final trilogues of CAP negotiations.

“We are looking for fairness for the 73,000 farmers who are set to gain from the proposals that are currently on the table and we are here to influence that vote, to lobby our own Minister for Agriculture, to make sure that he represents all farmers.

“We are waiting 20 years for this. The system that has been on the table is an unfair one based on a production system of 20 years ago and it is time that we get convergence done once and for all so that all farmers get an equal opportunity to receive Pillar 1 payments in CAP.”

Henry added:

“We find it difficult to understand our own Minister’s position [Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue is understood to support the Council’s 85% convergence proposal]. Even the EU sees that this [full convergence] is the right decision.”

Minister McConalogue will travel to Luxembourg on Sunday for a two-day meeting of the European Council (of agriculture and fisheries ministers). But the INHFA will meet with him in the coming 24 hours – virtually – to set out their demands.

“The current proposals would benefit all Irish farmers and we want to disseminate that information back to those farmers,” Henry said.