TD blasts farm bodies for ‘being unrealistic’ on CAP cuts

Hard-line demands from farm organisations on increasing or maintaining the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget have been criticised as “wishful thinking” by an independent TD.

Dr. Michael Harty, an independent TD from Co. Clare, is also calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to “come clean” on the level of cuts that farm families are likely to face.

His statements come ahead of next week’s proposal on the EU’s long-term budget, which will run from 2021 to 2027. The EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework will be presented by European Commissioner for Budget Gunther Oettinger next Wednesday, May 2.

The commissioner previously admitted that it was likely that cuts would be made to the CAP of between 5% and 10% in order to plug the Brexit budget hole expected to range between €12 billion and €14 billion per year.

Dr. Harty said that in a response to a recent Dail question, Minister Creed told him that there will be budgetary challenges facing the CAP budget after 2020 – but the minister added that he will continue to argue for the maintenance of the strongest possible budget for CAP in the years ahead.

However – at the same time – Dr. Harty pointed out that at an Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) event in Kilkenny last week, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, stated that Brexit is “blowing a €12 billion hole” in the EU budget and that other member states want to prioritise security and migration.

Meanwhile, he also highlighted that – at the same event – IFA president Joe Healy declared that he is still holding out for an increase in the budget.

Speaking to AgriLand, Dr. Harty said: “All the public announcements are pointing in one direction, that if Brexit happens – which we have to assume that it will – that there will be a cut to the CAP when the contribution from the UK is gone.

To expect that the budget is going to increase or stay the same is unrealistic; even though that is what the Irish farming community would like to happen.

“The likelihood is that it is not going to stay they same and that it is going to be decreased. Saying otherwise is not facing reality,” he said.

Shock factor

Dr. Harty is calling on the Department of Agriculture and the farm organisations to “face the music” and he urged them to make the necessary adjustments to prepare the farming community for what lies ahead.

“Wishful thinking is not a policy and if the department and the farming organisations don’t face the reality, then the shock will be even greater when the CAP is reduced and the support payments are reduced.

What the organisations and the department should be doing is trying to mitigate the changes to be a minimum.

“Trying and portraying that there is some way that they can be maintained or increased is really not facing reality.

“It’s not doing your job properly if you are giving people false hope and raising expectations which are not realisable,” he said.