The issue of farmer incomes was repeatedly and consistently raised as a major issue at a meeting in Portlaoise on the future of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).

The consultative meeting, hosted by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, saw farmers from the midland region voice their concerns over the CAP and a number of other issues – the vast majority revolving around income and related issues.

Farmers from the floor spoke impassionately over the issue of young people being less inclined to take up farming as a livelihood, due to the lack of viability.

Officials from the department also faced questions about the environmental measures that are contained in the CAP reforms that were put forward by the European Commission earlier this year.

One individual argued that farmers were “easy targets” where environmental measures were concerned, while another said: “Society expects more from farmers. But society is not paying for this. We are.”

The issues of convergence and pay ‘flattening’ were also addressed. Several speakers voiced their opposition to convergence, which one speaker said would reduce viability for some farmers in favour of farmers who “wouldn’t be viable even if they got the payment”.

Another individual labelled it the “rob Peter to pay Paul scheme”.

The definition of a ‘genuine’ or ‘active’ farmer was also debated. A number of speakers expressed anger at payments being put toward individuals who are not actively farming.

This meeting was part of a series of three such meetings on CAP post-2020, the purpose of which were to allow farmers to contribute to the department’s ‘SWOT’ analysis – standing for ‘strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats’.

One speaker from the floor expressed disappointment that only three meetings were organised “for the whole country”.

The department’s consultation period ends on October 11. Concerned farmers can also get involved through an online process.