Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers (ICSA) Chief Executive Eddie Punch has told Agriland that Ireland’s new grouping of MEPS must place agricultural policy at the top of their priority listings for the coming five years.

“And that means getting as many of them appointed to the new Agriculture Committee as possible. The recent CAP reform debate has confirmed that it is the work of the Agriculture Committee members that determines how farm policy evolves within the Parliament as a whole.

“Last time around, four Irish MEPs had a direct involvement with the Agriculture Committee. Let’s hope we secure that level of influence, at the very least, over the coming five years. The reality is that livestock farming in Ireland needs all the friends it can muster in Brussels and Strasbourg at the present time.”

Mr Punch continued: “There is speculation that Mairead McGuinness will be appointed Chairman of the new Agriculture Committee. This would be a tremendously beneficial development for Ireland, should it come to pass.”

Meanwhile ICSA has written to all 11 of Ireland’s newly elected MEPs, congratulating on their achievement. Key policy issues also highlighted in the correspondence include:

  • The severe penalties imposed on farmers relating to the land parcel review, instigated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on foot of pressure and threats of fines from the EU Commission.  ICSA believes that the penalties, involving a potential five years retrospective fine, are completely unjust and particularly unfair to the least well off farmers on marginal land.
  • The very unsatisfactory nature of the beef supply chain which is devastating the viability of cattle farmers because the multi-national retailers are taking too much and because the meat processors are using all kinds of anti-competitive practices to restrict opportunities for farmers to get a fair price. ICSA believes that the EU needs to intervene to ensure that the Single Market is facilitated in a fair and transparent way, not just for the benefit of big business but also for small-scale family farms.
  • Ensuring that the Pillar 2 funds are used to counteract the severe imbalance in viability that exists between various sectors of farming. According to ICSA, this is best understood by reference to the Teagasc 2013 National Farm Survey which shows average income of some €64,000 on dairy farms compared to €9,000 on suckler farms and €11,000 on sheep farms.