The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue said today (Tuesday, January 9) that he is “confident” that working through the farmers’ charter this year will avoid delayed payments.
The minister spoke at the 69th annual general meeting (AGM) of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).
“This year in terms of setting the best possible timelines to pay the highest possible percentages, we wrote to farmers back in March notifying some changes,” he said.
“Then we worked all hands on deck to meet those payment dates and we achieved 90% of the dates we set out,” Minister McConalogue added.
He said that some payments for Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) were delayed, due to the “complexity” of the Cooperation Project (CP) stream.
The minister added that despite delays, for the first time ever, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) accepted all 46,000 of applicants last year.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan 2023-2027 puts a “necessary emphasis” on climate and the environment, according to the minister.
He said that over 97% of farmers supported by CAP are participating in the eco-scheme, which highlights that farmers are “hugely positive” about the environment.
The scheme will pay farmers over €1.5 billion during the next five years, to complete actions on their farms to protect and enhance our natural resources.
“The budget for 2024 is almost €2 billion, and over €3 billion when direct payments are included.
“This represents my commitment to our farm families and demonstrates my unwavering support for beef and sheep farmers, with €113 million in targeted supports for these sectors,” Minister McConalogue said.
Work towards the nature restoration law was also openly discussed at the AGM.
The IFA dairy chair Stephen Arthur said that farmers “feel they have a target on their back” when it comes to water quality.
The minister said that he does “have farmers backs”.
“We cannot be complacent and collectively we must be straight with farmers on the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in.
“To secure the renewal of the derogation, we must take credible measures now to improve water quality,” Minister McConalogue said.
He added that through working with farm bodies and relevant state agencies through the Water Quality Working Group, that goals can be achieved.
The minister looked forward to the future at the AGM and said that the last three years have been about developing policy.
“We have done the heavy lifting and this year we now can focus on the farming,” he said.
With weather events last year, the minister said that this had effects on tillage farmers.
He added that dairy farm incomes also dropped this year, but that beef, sheep and pig farm incomes held up and even increased.
“We don’t have an unlimited pot of money, so it is critically important that in taking this responsive approach, we don’t lose sight of the long-term strategic goals for the sector,” the minister said.
“This is a progressive, forward-looking sector, active in climate action, investing in cutting edge research and development and building new economic opportunities to produce the best food in the world,” he added.