Farm organisations slam EU Council’s proposed CAP cuts
Leading farm organisations have strongly criticised proposed cuts to funding for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that were revealed in EU documents.
The documents propose a reduction in the amount of money from the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) – the official name of the EU’s budget – destined for the CAP of between 14% and 19%.
Several farm organisation have since responded to this revelation with anger, saying that such a cut would be “unacceptable” and calling on the Government (or any future government) to defend CAP funding.
Tim Cullinan, the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), said the proposed cut is “a huge blow for Irish farmers”, and called for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to reject the proposal when it’s officially tabled at a European Council meeting this Thursday, February 20.
“The taoiseach must now focus on these EU negotiations and not be distracted by the negotiations to form a new government. This proposal contains a significant cut in the CAP budget and it would be a devastating blow for Irish farmers and rural Ireland and must be rejected,” Cullinan said.
“I made it very clear at the IFA AGM [annual general meeting] in late January that farmers could not take cuts. They need an increased CAP budget to at least take account of inflation and any additional asks being placed on farmers,” he concluded.
Pat McCormack, the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), said Irish farmers will be “watching like hawks” when the taoiseach attends the council meeting on Thursday.
“There may very well be another General Election in the coming months and ICMSA will make it absolutely clear – to the farming communities in rural constituencies – who did, or did not, support the incomes and integrity of Irish farming and the wider €12 billion-odd agri-food system that depends on Irish farming,” said McCormack.
However, he stressed that it’s the proposed transfer of funding over to Pillar II programmes – proposed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen – that “should set alarm bells ringing the loudest”.
Farmers paid for everyone who enjoyed superb quality food at below-cost retail prices and – now that that’s been pinpointed as a problem – farmers must pay everyone else’s share while our food-production systems make this so-called ‘Just Transition’.
“We absolutely will not tolerate this and I’m saying now that farmers are making their own Just Transition in terms of voting patterns,” McCormack warned.
Edmond Phelan, the president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), labelled the proposed cuts as “totally unacceptable, particularly as a massive 14% cut to the CAP is proposed, even though there are much bigger asks being imposed on farmers, in terms of climate change in particular”.
“The ICSA is calling on the taoiseach to strongly resist this. It is entirely unacceptable that farmers will be asked to do a lot more on climate change which will cost them money, but the budget to support the CAP could be cut so severely,” Phelan argued.
We also need a strong signal from the EU Parliament that it will not support this budget proposal.
“You can’t have more ambition on issues like climate change and expect farmers to be able to implement it when you are directly cutting their CAP funding by 14%,” the ICSA president added.
The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) argued that a cut of the size proposed would “do irreparable damage to Ireland’s suckler and sheep sectors”.
The organisation is also calling on the Government and Ireland’s MEPs to resist the cut.
In relation to the proposed Green Deal, we believe the first issue that needs to be addressed is on appropriate payments to landowners for the burden of EU-imposed land designations.
“These designations, which are part of the EU’s Natura 2000 Habitats policy, have undermined farmers incomes through excessive compliance requirements,” the INHFA said.
“The EU and the member states have, over the last 20 years, failed to provide justice for these farmers through an adequate financial payment that recognises the importance of these designated habitats,” the organisation argued in a short statement.
Macra na Feirme has argued that the plans for CAP funding “make a mockery of farming and environmental commitments”.
The organisation says it rejects that this proposal “could be called a Just Transition”.
Cuts to Pillar I funding jeopardises the work of farmers to meet increasing regulatory demands, while cutting Pillar II funding devastates ambition for environmental and social efforts under the Rural Development Program (RDP).
“Redistributing farmer payments while cutting the total budget is the exact opposite of the principle of Just Transition, regardless of what name the European Council puts on a small fund,” argued Macra president Thomas Duffy.
“The taoiseach must strongly reject this proposal and stand up for both farmers and those who wish to protect the environment. Our government must stand strongly against…the attempts to undermine the CAP,” Duffy concluded.
Donie Shine, the national chairperson of the Irish Family-Farm Rights Group (IFRG), commented that: “The recent proposals of EU Council President Charles Michel to allow cuts to the EU CAP fund under the MFF negotiations…are alarming.
As if things aren’t bad enough with European agriculture in general, and with Irish agriculture in particular – looking set to be thrown under the bus when it comes to both world trade deals and European trade deals – now the EU’s own council looks set to put the nail in the coffin of its own agricultural sector by adopting proposals to cut contributions to the EU’s CAP fund.
“Irish and European farmers are sleepwalking towards their own demise… Our MEPs should protest vehemently and vote accordingly against such proposals,” Shine concluded.