Farm organisations across the country have expressed their concern over the 10% cut in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget for the period of 2021-2027.
The European Commission recently revised the budget in the European Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) accompanying the new European Recovery Programme.
The European Commission’s original proposal in May 2018, which included significant cuts to the CAP budget, was opposed to by many agricultural organisations and Government Departments.
It was announced recently that this budget is to be increased to €375 billion, with a further special injection of rural development funds - some €16.5 billion - from the new Next Generation EU fund. This will bring the total allocation to €391 billion for the period 2021-2027.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, has welcomed the announcement of a budget increase, saying he is satisfied with the proposal.
“This proposal represents an important recognition that farmers have to be provided with reasonable support through the next seven-year period.”
Although the announcement has been welcomed by farm organisations, many are still not satisfied with the level of funding that will be issued to farmers over the coming years.
Tim Cullinan, President of the IFA, stated that although the announcement is an improvement, it still represents a budget cut of 9% “in real terms.”
“Farmers cannot afford a cut. The proposal must be increased to cover inflation and the extra requirements the Commission wants to impose on farmers,” he said.
With the next EU Council meeting set to take place in mid-June, Cullinan said that whoever the new Taoiseach is, if there is one, will have to insist on a larger budget in order to provide a viable income for farmers.
“To put it bluntly, the Commission needs a reality check. It cannot impose more costs and output reductions which they set out in last week’s ‘Farm to Fork’ and ‘Biodiversity’ strategies and at the same time, cut the CAP budget in real terms. It must match its new ambitions with additional funds,” he said.
Echoing the concerns of Cullinan, The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society are worried about what the budget cut will mean for struggling rural economies.
A spokesperson for the organisation explained that direct payments are the central supports for farmers managing today’s difficult market situation with COVID-19. For 60% of Irish farmers, their direct payment represents over 100% of their farm income.
They warned that a cut this size would have a significant impact on the sustainability of many farms and the ability of rural economies to survive the economic downturn.
They stated: “Given the substantial climate and environmental targets set specifically for the agricultural sector, a cut to the CAP budget is entirely unacceptable, as the CAP remains the key driver through which farmers act on carbon sequestration and preserve natural habitats through investment in sustainable practices and production.”
They have also stressed the importance of the next European Council meeting and the need for our politicians to “take every possible initiative” to ensure the CAP budget is maintained at the current level, at the very least.