Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy recently held a series of meetings with farm leaders.
These included President of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Joe Healy, President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) Patrick Kent and President of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) Colm O’Donnell alongside their senior teams.
Speaking after the meetings Matt Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, said:
“Since my election as MEP, I have held ongoing engagements with organisations from across rural Ireland. These have included regular meetings with farmer representative bodies. My meetings with farm leaders in recent days were held in anticipation of a number of policy flashpoints over coming months, including Brexit negotiations, the EU Budget and the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement. Of course the future of the Common Agriculture Policy itself was central to our conversations.
“The budgetary shortfall anticipated as a result of Brexit is a major concern for farmers who rely on price supports in an increasingly volatile market.
“However, Direct Payments are not the only place this squeeze could be felt. Any decrease in the budget would greatly impact on the success of environmental schemes, the upkeep of rural landscapes and the economies of surrounding communities.
“The EU-Mercosur trade agreement was another major talking point. Commissioner Phil Hogan has previously said that it was removing sensitive products (beef) from the negotiating table. However he has not renewed such commitment even in light of the Brazilian Meat Scandal.
“In fact, Phil Hogan has been quoted as saying that the meat scandal is a separate issue and should not affect talks.
“Farming groups are in agreement that there must be a commitment to decisively remove beef and poultry from the agreement or risk decimating one of our biggest and most internationally reputable industries.
“I also explained to the organisations Sinn Féin’s position that farmers need to mobilise against other dangerous EU trade deals including CETA (with Canada) and the proposed TTIP deal (with the USA). The inclusion within all of these deals of a new Investment Court creates huge risks for protections that are currently in place to defend the livelihoods of farmers and other safeguards for the environment and citizens’ rights.
“Although a review of the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme has now been delayed by a year, it was agreed at the meetings that there can be no let-up in pressure on the Government and European Commission with regard to farmers on mountain, Natura and designated land. Farmers on the most constrained holdings must be adequately compensated for the service they provide to society.
“For decades now, the gap between increased regulatory burdens and adequate compensation has been growing. This cycle must change if designation schemes are to have any legitimacy.
“My meetings with the farm leaders were very constructive and informative. I will continue to work closely with Irish farmers and their representative organisations to ensure that the interests of Ireland, Irish agriculture and Irish farm families are defended at a European level.
“Central to this will be the need to protect the overall CAP budget and the envelop for Ireland but equally it is vital that the gross inequalities within CAP – whereby some major farm enterprises received hundreds of thousands in direct payments while the majority of farmers find it difficult to make ends meet – is brought to an end. Sinn Féin will be fighting for a better and fairer CAP throughout the coming months and years.”