Large numbers of farmers are taking to the streets this morning to highlight income challenges faced by the sector in an IFA-led protest outside the EU Commission offices in Dublin.
Farmer frustration is growing all across the EU due to the political inaction in the face of severe price volatility, excessive input costs, and unregulated retailers.
Farm incomes have taken an unprecedented hit, while farmers are also seeking clarity on how the Commission plans to use the €800m it collected in superlevy fines in the final year of quota restrictions.
IFA dairy chairman Seán O’Leary said: “For dairy farmers, whose margins have come down 92% in the last 16 months, we need the EU Commission to fulfil its legal obligation under regulation 1308/2013 and review the intervention ‘reference thresholds’ in light of increased production costs. This would send an immediate and longer-term message to global buyers that EU dairy products cannot be bought below cost.
“Also, before year-end, the EU Commission will have a fund of over €800m worth of surperlevy fines paid by over-quota farmers. This fund, nearly double what the EU 2016 Estimates budgeted, must not be subsumed into the EU overall budget, but be used to support dairy farmers and markets. It is not an option to use the crisis reserve as this would impact all farmers’ payments.”
IFA president Eddie Downey said he has been working with EU farming groups, and this week held talks with the FNSEA ahead of a major protest in Brussels on Monday, September 7.
Mr Downey led a group which met with Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to highlight the challenges being faced by farmers. He said political decisions by the EU in relation to Russia have contributed massively to the current problems.
Mr Downey said: “We made it clear the minister must deliver a strong message that support for farm families is urgently needed.”
IFA grain chairman Liam Dunne said Ireland’s 11,000 tillage farmers are now in their third year in a row in which their incomes have failed to cover production costs, and criticised onerous greening requirements and cuts to farm payments.
“Growers are forced to produce crops to satisfy bureaucratic requirements rather than respond to market signals,” said Mr Dunne. “The lack of profitability in the tillage sector has resulted in a significant fall in cereal production of close on 90,000 acres since 2012.”
The IFA wants the commission to relax greening rules to allow farmers to respond to market signals; to introduce intervention for all grains at prices that reflect production costs; and to abolish customs duties on non EU fertiliser imports.
The IFA is urging the EU to seek a re-opening of markets, including Russia, for pork products. It is also urging Mr Coveney to take action on removing the technical obstacles holding back exports of beef and other farm produce to markets such as the US and China.
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