‘It’s unconscionable to put CAP in the firing line’

Putting the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) “in the firing line” by cutting its funding would be “unconscionable”, according to one of the country’s leading farm organisations.

Edmond Phelan, the president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), said that “the very future of Irish farming is at stake, and any influence we have at EU level must be leveraged in order to put any talk of a cut to the CAP budget to bed”.

Phelan was speaking as the European Council summit on the EU budget broke up without agreement on Friday evening, February 21.

The ICSA president called on the Government to “remain resolute” in opposition to “any proposed cut” to the CAP budget.

During the summit, caretaker Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reiterated that he would not accept a reduction in the budget to the CAP – which would be cut by 14% under a proposal tabled by European Council President Charles Michel.

“We cannot continue to expect our farmers to do more with less and less. It is right for the EU budget to be ambitious, but those ambitions must be realistic and must not lose sight of the importance of securing sustainable food production systems and maintaining rural economies,” Phelan argued.

“Margins are being squeezed in all sectors, but particularly so in beef and sheep, and any cut in CAP would put countless numbers of farmers out of business,” he added.

At the very minimum, the CAP budget needs to be maintained at its current level so that farmers can remain in business and continue to produce high-quality food while being expected to do more on climate change.

The summit on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021 to 2027 concluded on Friday evening without agreement being reached.

Speaking afterwards, EU Council President Michel said: “Unfortunately, today we have observed that it was not possible to reach an agreement. We have observed that we need more time.

“We have worked very hard to try to reconcile the different concerns, the different interests, the different opinions on the table. But we need more time. It means that we will see in the future how it is possible to work on this topic in order to succeed, in order to get an agreement in the council,” he added.

President Michel explained that “informal consultations” will take place with member states over the coming days and weeks to determine “the best ways of working”.