Fianna Fail will launch its new farming policy document at this year’s Ploughing Championships, according to the party’s Agriculture Spokesman Eamon O Cuiv.

“It will address every aspect of production agriculture, from tillage through to poultry,” he said.

“The fundamental challenge facing agriculture is that of making the basic economics of producing food in this country inherently profitable,” he said.

“Too many farmers are now wholly dependent on the Single Payment as the means through which they balance their books. And until this situation is changed, the likelihood of significantly boosting Irish food output is extremely remote.

“The penny has dropped with farmers that upping livestock numbers, or producing more crops, simply adds to their cost base: not their profit margins.”

O Cuiv believes that the introduction of coupled payments for cattle and sheep farmers would be one way of addressing these problems.

“I actively proposed this measure, in the context of the recent CAP review, with the proviso that the payments were quality related,” he said.

“We also need to see steps taken that will allow farmers receive a higher proportion of the monies coming into agri food at the level of retail sales.”

O Cuiv also points out that, in his opinion, the current Government has not done enough to maintain a vibrant part time farming sector in Ireland.

“Minister Coveney seems intent on developing policies that preferentially meet the needs of full-time farmers working on better land,” he said.

“This is a fundamentally flawed approach, which will have implications for Ireland at a number of levels.

“In the first instance it is a strategy that may well lead to large numbers of farmers in disadvantaged areas walking away from agriculture altogether.

“Economically, this would be a tragedy. But it could also lead to an ecological disaster that incurs the wrath of the entire EU policy and decision making machines.”