Post-election programme for government ‘critical’ for agriculture – ICOS

The next programme for government after the election needs to support the agriculture sector “to the maximum possible extent”, according to the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS).

The society has released a statement outlining what it feels needs to be included in that next programme in order to achieve this.

One of the key points is regarding Brexit, with ICOS arguing that “a swift conclusion of trade negotiations between the UK and EU” must be supported to “ensure the continuation of tariff-free access by Irish exporters to the UK market”.

In terms of reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), ICOS is calling for a “strongly-funded CAP budget that will support farm income, generational renewal and sustainable farming practices”.

On climate change, ICOS is seeking support for the implementation of the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) and the ‘Ag Climatise’ roadmap.

Defending and supporting the continuation of the nitrates derogation is also necessary, ICOS argues.

The statement added that “robustly defending” live exports is also a pressing issue.

ICOS is also calling on the next government to pursue the following:

  • Income volatility: Support the inclusion of an income stabilisation tool in the next government budget to “enable primary producers to grow and manage their businesses”;
  • Unfair trading practices (UTPs): Appoint a new independent enforcement authority to oversee the implantation of the EU’s Unfair Trading Practices Directive, through the establishment of an ombudsman or equivalent office;
  • Independent beef sector regulator: A regulator for the beef sector should be appointed “as a matter of urgency”;
  • TB controls: There should not be any “restrictive or costly burden” on farmers that might “jeopardise” live exports or “greatly restrict the free and fair trade” of livestock;
  • Insurance costs: Address the “serious cost” of settling claims in Ireland, compared to other EU member states. According to ICOS, this is a “major contributor” to the “exorbitant insurance premiums many co-ops are faced with”;
  • Co-op shares: In the next budget, allow the purchase of co-op shares;
  • Co-operative Act: Enact a new co-operative act to “modernise” the legislative framework governing co-ops.

Jerry Long, the president of the ICOS, commented: “The agri-food industry is an essential pillar of Ireland’s economic success – nationally, regionally and locally – serving the interests of rural communities and underpinning the security of Ireland’s food supply for consumers and export markets abroad.

“Agriculture can continue delivering for Ireland on a sustainable basis for the future, but this requires a realisation by all parties who intend governing that our sector must be supported to the maximum possible extent now and into the future,” Long added.