Thousands of farmers took part in a series of protests around the country today in one of the largest coordinated protests since the onset of the Covid pandemic.
The IFA organised ‘Day of Action’ took place to highlight the organisation's concerns over CAP post-2020 funding and the environmental measures being introduced as part of the Climate Bill.
IFA’s President, Tim Cullinan said the direction of CAP and the position of the Climate Action Bill could put an end to commercial farming in Ireland.
“We will be making a strong statement across the country today that policies must support our largest indigenous industry,” he said.
“A cohort of farmers, many of whom are the most productive farmers, are being hit with huge cuts under the CAP.
“In addition, the Climate Bill, the subsequent carbon budgets and sectoral targets could result in huge additional regulation being imposed on the same group of farmers.
“We will not accept any attempt to remove credits from our sector."
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Gavin White, chairman, Longford IFA said farmers had a message to get across today. “We have €1.8bn in CAP payments coming into Ireland at the moment; that supports 300,000 jobs and so we need to keep that coming into rural Ireland,” he added.
“The other problem is the Climate Bill; the reality is that a lot of the pressure to deal with climate change is being pushed onto the farmer.
“The methane from cows is a totally different gas to what is coming from diesel engines, etc.
“So, there needs to be balance here; farmers are able to hold carbon and there are thousands and thousands of miles of hedgerows in the country.” He says that farmers are environmentally friendly people by nature and have been taking care of their environments for many, many years now.
“We have really faced the issues and dealt with them effectively over the years. Look at the low emissions slurry spreading (LESS), slurry is now being used as a nutrient for the soil (fertiliser),” Mr White continued.
Dairy farmer Pat Brady, who milks 80 cows on his farm told the Irish Examiner that GLAS needs to be replaced with a proper environmental scheme. "Something along the lines of REPS,” he said.
“We need to be paid enough money to carry out all these measures correctly and for the work that is involved in doing that.
“This rally today is important because it gives farmers across the country the opportunity to highlight the issues that are there.
“Here in Longford, we operate on marginal land. Inputs are going up all the time and margins are getting tighter.
“This year has been tough with the weather too; grass has really only started to grow properly in the last few days. Some land was saturated up until last week and I was foddering cattle up until yesterday, so it’s not easy to say the least.”
During a joint committee on Agriculture meeting regarding CAP earlier this week, Mr Cullinan pointed out that farmers “with environmentally high ambitions” will have to be rewarded for their efforts.
He also highlighted how 33% of the CAP funding here in Ireland is “already going into environmental schemes and so there should be a lesser eco-scheme for Ireland.”
Meanwhile, according to the Teagasc National Farm survey just one-third of farmers in Ireland are viable.
“The EU and our own government policies are targeting these farmers and will make them unviable,” Mr Cullinan continued.
“The Programme for Government and the Climate Bill refers to taking account of the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane in setting climate budgets.
“Yet it appears that the Government now wants to walk away from this commitment.
“Farmers want to work with the Government on climate action, but there has to be real engagement.
“Setting targets without any regard for the consequences won’t work.”