Fianna Fáil has welcomed the European Commission’s proposals to target young and small farmers in the renegotiation of the Common Agricultural Policy. However, commenting after the presentation of the Commission’s proposals in Brussels today, Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Michael Moynihan TD and Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Horticulture Seamus Kirk TD voiced serious concern about the impact of compulsory greening measures on the sector.
Speaking from Brussels, Deputy Moynihan said: “I welcome the aims of the Commission’s proposals and agree that it is necessary to incentivise and develop a more competitive, sustainable agriculture sector that delivers a fair return for farmers. In my view, it is not clear that this package has the right tools to deliver these aims.
“The most positive aspect of this plan is the proposal to increase payments to young farmers by 25% to encourage and support the growth of the sector. This will deliver real benefits in a sector where more than two thirds of the farmers are over the age of 55.
“However, I have very real concerns about the new Greening measures in the European Commission’s proposals. Under the plan, Member States will have to use 30% of the direct payments budget as a payment for respecting certain agricultural practices beneficial to the environment.
“There is real concern among farmers about the practicality of this measure, and also the effectiveness of this proposal in meeting our environmental goals. For many farmers the requirement to set aside 7% of land for ecological purposes is simply not feasible. While Irish farmers currently farm to high environmental and green standards, this legislation has the potential to make European farmers less competitive. There is also a fear that it could further burden farmers with “green tape”.
Deputy Moynihan also voiced concerns on the issue of Direct Payments.
“I am concerned about the transition from historic payments to area based payments, and the impact that this will have on Irish farmers in the intervening period.
“We are working in a vacuum without the detail of how this transition will work, particularly in relation to the reference year and what impact it will have on the structure of Irish agriculture. This lack of clarity will result in unwelcome uncertainty for farmers.
“There is a long road of negotiations ahead for the CAP, but in the interests of Irish farmers, clarification on the payments models and greening must be established without delay.”