‘Farming organisations must stand up for small family farms’

Farming organisations must stand up for small family farms, according to Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

The Roscommon–Galway TD was speaking in a week when both the IFA and Teagasc held conferences discussing the implications of Brexit.

“I am calling on the main farming organisations to back small family farms and address the inequalities when it comes to matters like the Single Farm Payment.

While the issue of Brexit is a hugely important one; the way farmers, and small farmers in particular, are treated by the EU should be a major concern for all the farming organisations.

“It remains a fact that 80% of EU payments go to 20% of farmers; I have often proposed that there should be a cap of €50,000 on the payment to any one farmer and that the payments should be skewed towards the smaller family farms.

“We know that 40% of our trade is with the UK and if the consequence of Brexit is that 40% of our trade will be lost or affected then the EU has a serious role to play in any negotiations, which is worrying,” he said.

Ireland cannot depend on the other EU member states to negotiate a good deal on its behalf; Ireland will have to take a central role to protect the future of its agricultural sector, Fitzmaurice added.

The negotiations on Brexit will be crucial to the future of the farming industry here and we have to take charge ourselves – to ensure that our interests are protected.

‘Farming is the backbone of the Irish economy’

Earlier this week, the IFA’s President, Joe Healy, addressed more than 800 farmers at the organisation’s ‘major’ Brexit conference at Goffs in Co. Kildare.

“Farming and agri-food is the backbone of the Irish economy. Last year, our food and drink exports topped €11 billion,” he said.

Farming and food generates economic activity in every parish, village and town across Ireland, supporting 300,000 jobs directly and indirectly.

“That’s what’s at stake in the Brexit negotiations,” he said.

The President of the IFA believes that Ireland is fortunate to have an Irish Commissioner, Phil Hogan, in the agriculture portfolio facing into these Brexit negotiations.

Healy reminded Commissioner Hogan that Irish farmers across the country are depending on him to protect their interests at this critical time.

“You and your colleagues cannot allow our livelihoods to be destroyed as a result of Brexit,” Healy told Commissioner Hogan.