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HomeFarming News‘My worry is that farmers are being made the villains’
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘My worry is that farmers are being made the villains’

Maria Walsh MEP discusses the new CAP in her recent newsletter.

I am very aware of the challenges facing farmers in the Midlands-North-West constituency, as a newly trained young farmer myself, writes Maria Walsh MEP.

My worry is that farmers are being made the villains. There is fear and panic among many of the farmers I engage with about eco-schemes and what they will mean for their holdings.

We must adopt the mindset that farmers are ecosystem stewards; they are custodians of the land. We have to empower them to protect that land for future generations.

Worse still, there is a clear historical imbalance between farmers working on one side of the country and those on the other. But, I believe, the them versus us narrative is not serving us. Instead, we need to look at practical ways within CAP that we can address the regional imbalance that exists.

Basic Payment Scheme 

As an industry, farming has come to rely solely on the cash payments of the Common Agricultural Policy.

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We need to look further and look to develop outwards into different areas versus relying solely on the Basic Farm Payment and top-up grants to survive. It is not sustainable, economically or socially.

This all starts with ensuring that farmers have better incomes. 80% of the money is only going to 20% of farming enterprises and larger identities.

In my eyes, that is not right or sustainable. We now have to challenge our vision of what a farmer is. We have to make access to farming more attractive, sustainable and future proof for generations.

I see immense scope to support and build better enterprises that are not solely reliant on encouraging young people to enter into dairy or other intensive farming methods.

A significant added value about being in the European Union is sharing best practices and connectivity of our farming methods.

Education is key 

As a member of both the Employment and Culture and Education Committees, I believe that education is key.

Similar to mental health and well-being literacy, there is also a much-needed space to educate us on why biodiversity and environmental protections are so important.

As a young farming politician, I wonder if we have not been bold or aspirational in our CAP design, ensuring fairness and balance, out of fear of electoral consequences.

I also wonder why it took me, at 33 years of age, two recessions and a pandemic, to really appreciate the value in how and where our food originates from.

We also have to look at ourselves as consumers. Buying local and green should not be a tagline for just the Christmas season.

To share your opinion, email – [email protected] 

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