Farmers head to Westmeath for CAP rally

More than 200 farmers are set for Westmeath this afternoon for an IFA-organised rally to call on 50:50 co-funding, with national top ups, to provide a combined EU/national annual budget of €660m under Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Pillar II measures.

Speaking ahead of the rally, which is taking place at the Mullingar Park Hotel, IFA president John Byran said the new Rural Development Plan (RDP) must put strong farm schemes in place, including disadvantaged areas, agri-environment (REPS/AEOS), suckler cow and sheep payments.

In addition, IFA president outlined the importance of a fully-funded RDP programme to provide investment aid to support modernisation and efficiencies across all sectors and assist farm restructuring and competitiveness through young farmer and other programmes.

Experts from University College Dublin (UCD) and Teagasc will also be speaking at the rally on the impact of direct payments on farm income, agricultural production and employment in the rural economy.

Speaking to AgriLand, Professor of Agriculture and Food Economics Alan Renwick said his presentation will focus on the economic importance of the agriculture and agri-food industry to Ireland noting, however, that a huge amount of farms are in fact unprofitable.

“The challenge we have is in the supply chain. Agriculture and agri-food are very important to the Irish economy. It is a major exporter and employer, yet many farms are unprofitable and are very vulnerable and this is the challenge.

“There are issues with the supply chain,” he added. “And farmers need to make a reasonable return.”

Speaking to AgriLand, Thea Hennessy, Principal Research Officer at the Rural Economy Research Centre at Teagasc, also stressed the importance of Pillar 11 to CAP funding in Ireland.

“There has been a lot of focus on the single farm payment (SFP) but in fact the disadvantage area scheme (DAS), rural environment protection scheme, agri-environment options scheme and smaller schemes are equally important.

“These payments contribute a large income to small beef and sheep farmers, especially in the West and border regions, who are very reliant on DAS payments.”

Recently published Teagasc National Farm Survey will be presented at the rally. “In terms of the regional statistics, the difference in income is stark and the survey also shows the important of that income to farmers,” she added.

Regarding the 15 per cent decline in income for farmers across the board in 2012, she noted this was down to weather, output but that it showed how important Government funding is to farmers.

Speaking last week in the Dail, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney stressed 50:50 co-funding for rural development was unrealistic.

“Even in the good times in Ireland we were not providing 50:50 co-funding for rural development in terms of the average spend on such development over the past seven years,” he added.

It is understood the Government will decide on CAP Pillar II funding and plans by mid-December. 

Related: 
Renwick to speak at IFA rally in Mullingar

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