IFA calls on department to up its game on ‘genuine farmer’ challenge

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has urged the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to up its game on taking on the challenge of defining a “genuine farmer” under the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Speaking at a media briefing at the IFA’s AGM today (Tuesday, January 29), director general of the IFA Damian McDonald said:

“It’s going to be challenging to define actually what objective criteria is, because what you’re doing by defining a genuine farmer is you’re also excluding somebody from single payments.

But I think the problem is that – what appears to be the view of the department is that – ‘well this is too much trouble; we just won’t deal with it’.

“And I think the message from the farmers on the ground is that it should be looked at and considered, and take on the challenge: Can we put objective criteria in?”

The director general highlighted that there are a number of schemes that define farmers in different brackets for tax and other matters.

“To dismiss it now before we even take it on – it’s too early to do that. We should look at it and see if we can target the payments at genuine farmers.”

IFA president Joe Healy said: “We can’t and we’re not accepting the view that we’re getting from the department that it’s too cumbersome to define a genuine farmer.

“And that’s why it’s come up and it’s been one of the key discussion topics at all of those ANC and CAP meetings that we’ve had around the country.

And I think, while we were trying to identify and define the genuine farmer, people were nearly more clear on what isn’t a genuine farmer.

When asked about specific criteria that the IFA is pushing for, Healy said that the organisation is still in the process of consulting its membership at a number of CAP consultation meetings.

“We’re still in the process; we have a number of those regional meetings to go but there is a broad, general view of what a genuine farmer is.”

The president outlined that the CAP budget is a finite sum which looks like it will be getting smaller, meaning the genuine farmers must be supported more efficiently.

“There’s no point in making farmers that are already struggling unviable. That reduction in the convergence already has made some of those unviable.

‘The farmer that gets up to calve the cow, lamb the ewe’

“And I think the genuine farmer and the views very clearly from farmers all over the country is that the genuine farmer is the farmer that gets up to calve the cow, to lamb the ewe.

The farmer that’s there depending on the farmer for most of their income. And there are part-time farmers who are great farmers – they have to go out to get a job to support the income on the farm, but they are genuine farmers too.

But the farmer on the ground doesn’t feel that – and I mentioned a few of them today – the Sheikh, Coolmore Stud, Larry Goodman, the beef barons – they are not genuine farmers.

“I think money that’s going there could be more directed towards genuine farmers,” Healy concluded.