Renua has launched its election manifesto and is calling for additional assistance to farmers in less advantageous circumstances.
Lucinda Creighton’s party launched the manifesto in Dublin today (January 4).
Balanced economic and social development of the country requires a degree of flexibility in the financial support of agriculture in more peripheral and marginal areas of the island, according to the party.
Notwithstanding Renua Ireland’s strong support for direct payments based on current producers, additional assistance for farmers in less advantageous circumstances must be part of any new future programme.
According to Renua, the CAP will remain central to the production of sufficient quantities of quality food for the people of Europe and for all its faults, it remains the outstanding EU Policy Directive.
However, as a party of enterprise and work, Renua Ireland recognises that future EU Agriculture support must be directed towards farmers involved directly in farming activity on a full-time or part-time basis.
The historical payments support schemes will not continue indefinitely and Ireland should lead rather than follow EU decision-making during the mid-term and later substantial review of the CAP, according to the manifesto.
Other proposals affecting farmers, which Renua states seek to release potential throughout this vital sector of the Irish economy, include the following:
Price Volatility Fund
An ongoing challenge facing all producers in the agricultural sector is the serious volatility in commodity prices.
It is a significant financial burden and greatly hinders long term planning. At present, this is very evident in the dairy sector, where the welcome end to the quota regime and the resulting increase in milk production has to some extent been offset by ongoing downward trends in milk prices.
Renua Ireland is proposing a Price Volatility Fund to help all producers deal with this ongoing issue.
Such a fund, similar to the Marginal Protection Programme of the United States or the UK Deficiency Payment Scheme of the 1950s and 1960s, would provide income certainty at times of significant price challenges across the industry.
Producers would be allowed to invest some of their profits tax free at times of high income receipts, and taxation would only apply once withdrawals were made from the fund.
Competition in Meat Processing
Renua Ireland is a party which believes strongly in competition. A situation close to monopoly has been allowed to develop in the beef industry.
Many of the lessons from the Beef Tribunal report of the 1990’s have not been learned. The concentration of power within the beef industry remains problematic and is damaging Irish farm incomes.
Renua Ireland will encourage and support the development of charitable trusts which would fulfil many of the functions previously undertaken by co-ops.
These trusts can provide access for farmers to their own processing facilities and sales can be facilitated via an online mart developed and operated to keep overheads low.
Support for Hill Farming and the Sheep Industry
Hill farming, a vital contributor to the maintenance of Irish mountainsides and valleys has been discouraged in recent years.
Renua believes that hill farmers should be allowed managed access to natural designation areas in co-ordination with the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Conservation areas will benefit from appropriate grazing by sheep and the access to commonage by farmers will reduce input costs for lamb production.
A Beet Industry for Ireland
The EU no longer produces excess sugar and the market has changed dramatically since the time of Ireland’s
exit from sugar production.
Sugar beet, the most profitable tillage crop that can be grown in Ireland and also an environmentally friendly break crop, should have a pivotal role in Irish agricultural production.
Renua Ireland therefore supports the development of a beet processing plant in Ireland to produce sugar for domestic consumption, bio-ethanol for mixing with imported petroleum and beet pulp as an animal protein feed.
Renua Ireland supports the appropriate capital allowances for investment in re-building our sugar industry.
Irish land changes ownership very infrequently, making it almost impossible for smaller farmers to expand. It is in the national, economic and social interests of the country to maintain the maximum number of small holders and farming families.
Renua Ireland believes a Financial Bond Scheme is needed to enable investment in land by trained farmers.
Such a scheme, initially operating as a lease, could progress to full purchase after a suitable qualifying period.
A Financial Bond Scheme will enable farmers to build equity in land until they are able to enter a commercial term loan with a financial institution such as the Local Public Banks proposed by Renua Ireland.
Long-Term Land Leasing
Productive farmers can only expand production if there is adequate access to additional land. Long-term land leasing must be encouraged.
Current incentives for long term land leasing are not sufficient and must be revised.
Share farming offers an avenue into agriculture production for farmers seeking to start or expand production in conjunction with other farmers.
Opportunities to collaborate should be flexible and a range of capital allowances should be available to farmers who register the arrangement as a commercial business.
This will incentivise taxation and financial planning in the farming sector.