On the latest episode of Farmland, the chair of the Family Farm and Social Affairs Committee of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), called for more consistency between Irish and EU agricultural policies.

Speaking to Agriland editor, Stella Meehan, Alice Doyle said policies developed at a national level are not always cohesive with those coming from international bodies, and that is unfair on the farming community.

“Farmers are being told on one side to cut back on production for environmental reasons, then on the other, to increase production because there’s a worry of food shortage – any normal person would be confused by that,” Doyle said.

In relation to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Doyle said that in her view, it is set to take away supports that were put into the original policy to support cheaper food production.

“Now, the consumer still wants cheap food, but the farmer is paying more and more to produce it,” she said.

“Our farmers can produce it [food] better and more environmentally friendly than many other countries and I think it is very short-sighted [that] EU and national policy cannot see and acknowledge that, and make sure that farmers are rewarded for it.”

Policymakers need to think more realistically and stop introducing policies without taking into consideration the gravity of the situation that many farmers are in, said Doyle.

Speaking about rural Ireland, she said that there is a huge population living outside the major cities, and they must be considered. She explained that many farmers cannot always switch to environmentally friendly alternatives as easily as others can.

“They need diesel, they need four-wheel drive to transport cattle, they can’t buy an electric jeep because that won’t pull a trailer. That kind of realistic thinking isn’t there,” she said.

Doyle added that when the government calls on people to use more public transport to reduce emissions and offset the increasing cost of fuel, they are forgetting about those living rurally.

“The nearest public transport to me is a bus that goes by twice a day to Dublin and it’s about 8km from me.

“So, am I to get on my bike or walk to it [the stop]. What do I do if I need something? Can I bring a tonne of fertiliser on the back of my bicycle?”

Farmland – farm families

On Farmland, Doyle also discussed the impact that the ongoing inflationary and input crises are having on farm families throughout Ireland who are struggling to pay for groceries, cover school fees, and pay their household bills as a result.

A disproportionate rise in input costs and output prices trickles back to the family’s life and that needs to be discussed more said Doyle, who is a member of a farming family herself.

Comparing her fertiliser bills from a like-for-like period in 2021 and 2022, resulted in a 280% price increase – from €375/t to €1,000/t. There has also been significant increases in the price of agricultural diesel.

However, she added that the price farmers are receiving for commodities “has not increased anywhere close to that amount”.

“I go into a supermarket and I look at the cost of my shopping list and I see a huge increase, yet that is not reflected in the price that the farmer is getting at the other end for his product,” Doyle said.

“I now have to meet an extra grocery bill, my husband is meeting an extra bill out in the yard for his inputs, but we have no guarantee whatsoever that the we’ll get a good price at the end of the year for the output.”

The increase in input costs is being felt inside farming households in other ways too according to Doyle. Alongside fuel price increases, the cost of school buses has gone up, and for many farming families living rurally, walking to school is not an option.

Doyle also outlined that many farming families are living in older houses that have not been insulated and, as a result, they now face more expensive heating bills.

“People don’t think about these kinds of things, these are the household stresses that are on farmers as well as the stresses out in the yard,” she added.

You can stream the the interview with Alice Doyle on the latest episode of Farmland here.