Opinion

Letter to the editor: ‘Food Harvest 2020 has come and gone’

Food Harvest 2020 has come and gone and all the ambitions that were talked between the then Minster for Agriculture, Teagasc and all the interested parties told us clearly that high quality food was in high demand, with the increase in global population and with the abolition of quotas we as farmers were in the perfect position to expand production.

That ambition was short-lived with a review of the nitrates derogation. The problem has already started with farmers scrambling for maps to keep them below 220 (because you definitely don’t want to be above that).

All this is doing is putting farmers competing with one another for inflated rental prices which will do nothing only push out the small operator.

Investment by farmers

The next problem is the level of investment made by the dairy farmers post quota – in the region of €450 million per year to increase production, upgrade parlours, milk tanks, etc.

Farmers got grant aided, which was welcome, but with any capital investment made, it has to be repaid. So here is the problem: an investment for increased production, but if we read between the lines, its herd reduction that could happen so then repayment capacity is reduced through no fault of our own and we the farmers, are left holding the tin.

We are called polluters as farmers but we are the only industry that has increased output and reduced emissions. We as farmers need to push back and protect our national herd just like the political leaders from the two main parties in government promised when they were looking for votes. Practice what you preach.

CAP funds

In relation to the new CAP [Common Agricultural Policy], it is very concerning to learn that up to 30% of Pillar 1 money could be held back to do eco-schemes. The worry about this is – will derogation farmers (which I consider hard working farmers) be let enter this scheme because a 30% cut would be detrimental to the sector.

The talk about too many cows by farmers is talked vastly around but there seems to be no talk about inactive farmers. Looking at statistics, over 5,000 farmers a year in the last five years have not met the stocking rate for ANC [Areas of Natural Constraint] payments.

But since you don’t need any stock to draw down your BPS [Basic Payment Scheme] payment, this group of people – because we can’t call them farmers – are receiving a cheque in the region of €,9000 per year (average single farm payment) at a cost of €45 million per year.

The CAP should not be supporting a person that is not producing milk, beef or grain off the land. It was not put in place for arm chair farmers. It’s their own choice what they do with their land but just because you have a herd, does not mean you are entitled to CAP money while sitting in your armchair.

The government needs to stop kicking the can down the road and once and for all distinguish what an active farmer is and let the CAP do its work of protecting active farm incomes.

From Pat Connor, Co. Limerick.