Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has called for the European Commission and Irish Department of Agriculture to make clear how they expect Irish farmers to achieve the targets set out in the Farm to Fork strategy.
His comments come after the European Parliament’s report on the Farm to Fork legislation was adopted this week by a large majority.
‘The challenges are great’
MacManus, who supported the report, commented:
“I fully appreciate these ambitious targets are needed to deliver a sustainable transformation of our food production sector.
“If we get this right, the benefits include less biodiversity loss, more carbon-efficient production, preserved water quality and higher animal welfare.
“From a food consumers’ point of view, who would be against fresh, less processed and sustainably-sourced produce?
“But we must accept that from a farmers’ point of view, the challenges are great.
“Farmers will be in charge of delivering these objectives, so are our most important partners. Unfortunately, the farmers I speak to are worried.
“They tell me they are fully on board with delivering environmental renewal, but the challenge feels almost impossible given we are looking at a reduced CAP budget.
“Further to that they are being forced to compete on price with countries who do not have to adhere to such high standards.”
Societal importance of Farm to Fork ‘unquestionable’
The Sinn Féin MEP pointed to possible difficulties where direction is needed:
“In the vegetable production sector, the move to organics, according to some studies, could cause a drop in yield of up to 16%.
“Customers may not always be willing to pay a higher price to make up the shortfall it leaves in a farmer’s margin. This must be addressed.
“I believe the societal importance of the Farm to Fork is unquestionable but its success will depend on whether policymakers can develop a toolbox, alongside farmers, to help them achieve the targets while remaining competitive.
“Farmers must be brought along at every stage, rather than be dictated to from on high.”
MacManus concluded by urging necessary supports for farmers: “I am calling on the European Commission and Irish Department of Agriculture to carry out the necessary research and develop suitable solutions for farmers that match our ambition.”