It has been stressed that “any policy debate about the future of the agricultural sector has to be more farmer focused and contain measurable targets for farmer profitability and viability”.

Speaking at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Open Policy Debate on Ireland’s Agri-Food Strategy to 2030, at the Aviva Stadium today, Wednesday, October 16, the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) president Joe Healy made the comments.

He added: “Despite ambitious targets for growth jobs and exports in the Foodwise 2025 strategy, there were no targets measuring how farmers were doing.

Foodwise 2025 included no explicit targets for improvements in profitability or even viability at farm level.

“Agriculture is our most successful indigenous sector and it’s built on the back of farmers.

“Yet beef, sheep and grain farmers in particular are in dire straits. If we don’t address income levels, there is a real risk that the raw materials needed to achieve the other targets will not be there.

“Farmers are frustrated looking at the annual fanfare around export growth with little or no benefit accruing to them as prices remain depressed.”

The next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget, and how it is distributed, is a huge challenge for our Government. The CAP must support active, productive farmers.

Farmers will continue to meet the climate challenge, but if they are expected to further refine their practices, then they must be rewarded with ‘new money’ and not by raiding other payments.

“All stakeholders in the agri-food sector need to face the reality that if one element of the food supply chain is vulnerable, the achievement of the overall strategy is at serious risk.”

Concluding, Healy said: “It is in the interests of all in the industry that farmers receive a fair return.”