Opinion

Phil Hogan needs to up his game, or resign

The fact that Phil Hogan, Europe’s Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, believes that a proposed 5% cut in the next budget for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) represents a fair outcome to the recent negotiation process in Brussels should give every Irish farmer great cause for concern.

I believe this is a development that flies in the face of every challenge facing production agriculture at the present time.

Farm-gate prices continue to be eroded, so the very least farmers could have expected is an increase in their basic payment, by way of compensation.

In my opinion, Phil Hogan must now come forward with proposals that will allow individual EU member states to top up their CAP budget allocations accordingly. And if he can’t do this – or is not allowed to do this – he should resign his position as a matter of principle.

It is also incumbent on the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and the other farm stakeholder groups in this country to make these very same points to the commissioner, as a matter of priority.

I fundamentally disagree with the principle of farmers protesting. But, given the gravity of the news coming out of Brussels this week, I think the IFA might well be justified in doing so – in this scenario.

Let’s not forget that the payment, in any case, will be further eroded by inflation over the coming years.

Meanwhile, evidence continues to present itself of the power which supermarkets are striving to amass at the retail end of the food chain. The past few days have seen Sainsbury’s planning to merge with Asda, claiming that the move will lead to an 11% fall in the prices paid for most basic items in their shops.

This is more bad news for farmers who, no doubt, will be left as the fall guys for these envisaged price cuts.

And, no doubt, retailers across the EU are of a similar mind when it comes to planning their futures.

Let’s not forget that Phil Hogan has also promised to take action against the supermarkets, in the context of their buying-in policies. But, as yet, he has done very little in terms of making all of this a reality.

Given this backdrop, the case becomes ever stronger for farmers to have access to realistic support systems.

The proposed 5% cut to the next CAP budget is a make-or-break issue for Irish agriculture. It will take the active involvement of everyone in the industry to ensure it does not become reality.