Farmers ‘can’t do more with less’: French and Irish united on CAP priority

French and Irish farmers are united in seeking a strengthened Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2020, leaders from two of the largest organisations in each country have said.

President of the French farmers’ union FNSEA, Christiane Lambert, met with Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Joe Healy for talks on Brexit and wider European affairs in Dublin this morning (Monday, March 11).

Speaking at a media briefing, both farm leaders underlined their position on the proposed 5% cut to the CAP budget post-2020.

From a French farmer perspective, Lambert said: “We oppose a cut in the budget; we’re asking our government to fight very hard.

We want the government to obtain more in the budget because farmers are being asked to do more from an environmental perspective; from a farming perspective; from a sanitary perspective, welfare etc, and consequently they can’t do more with less.

“The European Union has set for itself high food production standards in every domain and the direct payments are the counterpart of the effort that’s required of farmers.”

The French farm leader added that such payments are also a very important part of farmers’ incomes, while also allowing consumers to access reliable, affordable food which is also safe.

Healy also commented, noting: “I think in relation to the CAP proposals and the 5% cut, we’ve been fairly clear that the MFF budget has gone up and it’s not directly as a result of Brexit; it’s the new initiatives in relation to migration and security and defence.

That is why we have asked very clearly that the member states’ contributions are increased to 1.3%. The proposal is to bring them up to 1.1%.

“And that’s not enough to cover new initiatives that they’re introducing into it as well.

“We’ve spoken about this, that there can’t be a cut to the CAP budget and the EU can’t allow a situation to occur where countries that remain loyal to the EU are worse off as a result of a country that decides to leave the EU.”

The IFA president reiterated that this would be a very negative signal for the EU to portray.

Budget reduction

Lambert also commented on the shifting budget proportion allocated to CAP in the evolution of the union.

“For a very long time there was a criticism of the Common Agricultural Policy as utilising too much of the European budget.

60% of the budget was given over to agriculture; with all the reduction over the years it’s now about 35% of the budget – still with the same agenda of providing food, jobs, contribution to the economy at local level, and local rural economy.

“And it’s 35% of a budget which only amounts to 1% of all public expenditure in the European Union.”

Noting that CAP has proven itself from both a rural economic and a food quality perspective, she asked where would agriculture be without CAP and where would Ireland or France be without agriculture, underlining the importance of both.

Benefit to consumers

Healy also outlined the benefit to the consumer from the policy.

“There is the view that the Common Agricultural Policy is for the benefit of farmers across Europe. But what’s often lost in the messaging is what it has done for the consumer.

“It has allowed top-quality food to be available in abundance and at affordable prices since the 1960s.

If you go back to the 1960s there was 30% of the average household income being spent on food; today, depending on where you are in Europe, it’s anything between 10 and 15%.

“So I would say very strongly that CAP has benefitted every one of the half a billion EU consumers throughout the EU and not just the farmers,” Healy concluded.