‘Make-or-break decisions’: IFA outlines challenges in 2019

Make-or-break decisions are imminent for the farming sector which will require strong political leadership, according to the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Joe Healy.

Addressing the 64th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Dublin today (Tuesday, January 29), the president said that the country’s largest indigenous sector faces a number of threats.

He outlined that the focus of both the Irish Government and the European Commission must be on the correct policy decision to secure the future of farming.

Brexit was the first topic of the day. Healy called on the UK government to adjust its “red lines”, stressing that the backstop has to remain.

“In a process characterised by uncertainty, the one certainty is that a no-deal would be a catastrophe for Irish farming.”

The president highlighted the plight of Irish beef farmers.

“We need a price increase and we need it now.

We have made a very strong case to Commissioner Hogan that we need support. In recent weeks, Minister Creed finally recognised that beef farmers are losing their shirts – I can tell the minister that farmers’ shirts are well and truly gone.

Farmers need €20/head for every 5c/kg reduction, Healy said.

The minister’s wait and see approach has just not worked.

CAP reform

Ahead of the European Parliamentary elections, the president outlined that a clear message must be given that there must be an increased Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget with two elements: direct payments supporting active farmers and a well-funded Rural Development Programme.

He referenced that, with households now spending much smaller proportions of their incomes on food, farmers must be supported to ensure this.

No Irish commissioner or minister could ever agree to a reduced CAP budget, he said, adding that inflation must also be taken into account as well as the compensation of farmers for further imposed requirements.

The issue of the definition of a “genuine farmer” was also a key topic, with the challenge highlighted by the president.

Sheikh Mohammad, Coolmore Stud, Larry Goodman and their likes are not genuine farmers. CAP direct payments can no longer be used to fund Sheikhs and beef barons.

“They should be used for farmers who are up in the middle of the night to calve cows, lamb ewes and work round the clock to harvest crops,” the president stressed.

Healy added that An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will address the AGM this evening: “We expect to hear a strong commitment from him on the CAP budget.

“Farmers will judge the Taoiseach on how he delivers on this and other key issues,” Healy said.