Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Eamon Scanlon has called on the Agriculture Minister to ensure that the next CAP programme puts farmers at the heart of the proposals.
He raised the issue with Minister Michael Creed in the Dáil this week following representations from farmers in the constituency.
Deputy Scanlon explained, “While the most recent farm income data revealed an increase in incomes, particularly in the dairy sector, there are still many farmers who are struggling to meet ends meet. Farmers in the North West are at a bigger disadvantage because of the geographical location – the land isn’t as good as in other parts of the country, there is a high proportion of mountainous land and many have lost land and animals as a result of storms and flooding in recent years.
“The new CAP should reflect the complexities of farming in these areas and be made more flexible so that genuine hardship cases can be examined on a case by case basis.
“Many of the schemes under the CAP programme are based on a five year contract. If they run into financial issues they have a choice to continue to comply with the terms of the scheme or to repay whatever funding has already been paid to them up to that point.
“I have been contacted by a farmer who is in serious financial trouble and is facing the prospect of having to sell all his cattle. He is three years into the Beef Genomics and Data Scheme and will be in breach of the terms of the scheme if he sells his livestock. This will lead to a substantial penalty, which he is simply not able to afford.
“I am calling on the Minister to explore the possibility of extending the force majeure clause in these schemes to cover farmers in heavy debt and give the Department the power to examine any exceptional cases on their individual circumstances. Direct payments make up 75% of total farm income. Irish suckler beef and sheep farmers are entirely dependent on these payments to remain sustainable and I am urging the Minister to work to see if some flexibility for exceptional cases can be reached”.