In the recently published Programme for Government document, a number of issues surrounding the Irish agri-food sector were discussed.
Part of this discussion included the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the protection of farm incomes.
The document reads that the agri-food sector is Ireland’s most important indigenous industry, providing 173,000 jobs and accounting for 10% of Irish exports.
As a government, the proposed coalition stated that they are fully committed to supporting farmers and food businesses across the country.
They plan to work with the sector to improve farm incomes and protect the future of farming.
Within this chapter of the document, a number of initiatives, policies, approaches and strategies are outlined that reflect the approach to farming and land use over the lifetime of the Government.
Common Agricultural Policy
The new government stated that maintaining the CAP budget is their top priority in negotiations. They said they are prepared to contribute more to the EU budget should these funds be spent on measures that will advance the European ideal.
The importance of this was stated as being critical to the future of family farming, farm incomes and long-term economic and environmental sustainability.
A number of proposals have been outlined in the document. These include:
- Establish a well-funded CAP transition period and new CAP to maintain investment levels in the rural economy and safeguard direct payments.
- Seek reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy to reward farmers for sequestering carbon, restoring biodiversity, improving water and air quality, and producing clean energy and developing schemes that support result-based outcomes. We will utilise this funding and the expertise of state agencies to develop more profitable routes to market for farmers.
- Continue to support farmers to embrace farming practices that are beneficial environmentally, have a lower carbon footprint and better utilise and protect natural resources.
- Support beef, dairy, sheep, pig, poultry, tillage and horticulture sectors in the context of the next CAP through on-farm investment, the development of producer groups, animal welfare measures, and marketing tools such as Protected Geographical Indicator status.
- Introduce a new cap on basic payments, in line with the outcome of CAP negotiations.
- Advocate for a fair system of eligibility conditionality under the reform of GAEC rules, recognising that farmers should not be unfairly penalised for maintaining land that contributes to biodiversity principles.
- Invest in enhanced farm safety and wellbeing measures under the next CAP
Protecting farm incomes
In order to ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural commodity, as per the Lisbon Treaty, the new government say they will:
- Protect and enhance the incomes and livelihoods of family farms as a key objective of the Government, as the agriculture sector embraces the mission of delivering on climate change and biodiversity objectives while building on its achievements as a world-class producer of quality food.
- Build upon schemes such as Areas of Natural Constraint, the Beef Data and Genomics Programme, Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme – Suckler, the Knowledge Transfer Scheme and the Sheep Welfare Scheme, in a way that enhances farm incomes while contributing to climate change, biodiversity and animal welfare objectives, while recognising their significant contribution to net farm incomes.
- Conduct a review of the means test disregards for Farm Assist with a view to better rewarding farmers availing of the Scheme for their enterprise. Measures such as Farm Assist and the Rural Social Scheme are important supports for low-income farmers.