A combination of factors is contriving to put unprecedented pressure on the Irish and EU model of family farming according to IFA President Eddie Downey.

Speaking today (Mon) at a major international conference in Dublin organised by IFA and Teagasc to celebrate the UN International Year of Family Farming, Downey said, Irish farm families, like those all over the world, do a vital job and play a pivotal role in the economic wellbeing of rural communities where agriculture represents the backbone of their economies. “Every family in Ireland and across the globe depends on the output of family farms for their very being and today is an opportunity for everyone to recognise this and to draw attention to the fact that food security can no longer be taken for granted,” he added.

He said a combination of extreme price volatility, escalating input costs that bear no relationship to farm market returns, reduced EU support in real terms for productive farming, inequity in a food supply chain and a never-ending assortment of costly political and societal bureaucratic interference is sapping income and profitability out of family farming.

The IFA President said that farming is a labour-intensive business and the EU farm family model must be protected as it is the most effective way of delivering food security for Europe’s 500m citizens and the rapidly growing populations across the globe. “The simple fact is that many hard- working Irish and EU farm families are no longer getting a fair reward for the vital job they do for all of society.”

Downey called for real action at UN, European and Irish political level to restore equity in the food supply chain and deliver a level of farm profitability that encourages the next generation to continue the business of family farming. “Affordable risk management systems including tax measures will have to be introduced to help family farms address extreme product price volatility. Farm families simply cannot cope with the extremes as they try to compete in a global market place.”

The IFA leader said the recent comments by the EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan on equity in the food supply chain was on the mark and it was time that the EU addressed the dominance and unfair practices of the retail multiples with regulation. In addition, the EU will have to take action to address the cartels now becoming apparent in the farm inputs sector and he cited as an example the fertiliser sector which is now dominated by 4/5 players globally.

Eddie Downey said inputs costs have risen by over 50% in the last 10 years and this has not been matched with increases for farm produce. “Political and other interference at EU level means family farms are unable to compete with other global regions on a level playing pitch. For example, European family farms are denied the use of certain production technologies, but have to compete with farmers all over the world who have access to these technologies, and a much lower cost base. This is no longer sustainable.”

Downey said the EU CAP supports are very necessary and welcome by farm families, but their continued erosion in real terms must be addressed in the next reform and more financial supports directed towards productive farm families.