Well-trained new entrants are important for the future of our dairy industry, and deserving of support, but not at the expense of existing small to medium-sized family farms.
Little has been done to help preserve traditional family farming in Minister Coveney’s CAP and rural development programmes to 2020.
In the context of dairying, small to medium sized traditional farming families have been under severe pressure for many years, and thousands of them have been forced out of business every year.
The flexibility that was available in the new CAP agreement gave the minister an opportunity to help maintain most of those remaining, for example, there were the options of front-loading payments on “first acres”, and a viability scheme for vulnerable farmers. But these options have been ignored.
Huge support has been given to new entrants aged under 40. Well-trained new entrants are important for the future of our dairy industry, and deserving of support, but not at the expense of existing small to medium-sized family farms.
The most deserving of support are the thousands of existing family dairy farmers who have reached a good level of efficiency, but are in danger of being forced out of business because of their scale and lack of resources.
Most of these farmers are in their forties and fifties — too old for the 25% top-up of single farm payments, and high rates of grants etc. They are at an expensive stage, rearing families which will provide future farmers and help maintain rural Ireland.
Hopefully the minister will have a rethink and introduce the option of a viability, or a “first acres” scheme for vulnerable dairy farmers.
Most of these farmers have very low SFPs, but can grow into successful farmers in the future if they get the help they deserve.
It is much easier and more economical to grow an existing enterprise than start a new one.
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