Phil Hogan vows to protect farmer incomes

EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan has moved to reassure Irish farmers amid concerns over the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Phil Hogan vows to protect farmer incomes

The commission is proposing a reduction in direct support payments by around €30bn beyond 2020.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has previously described the move as a major threat to the sector and insists that farmers are already struggling on low incomes.

Mr Hogan, who was in Dublin to accompany European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, says the negotiations are still at an early stage but admits that Brexit is already having an impact on the budget.

“It’s the first time that a member state has left the European Union,” said Mr Hogan.

“Because it is a big member state it has generated a big problem in terms of our finances, by €12bn. My message to the farmers is that we will protect the small and medium-size farmers’ income and we will do everything possible to find additional resources to improve the position that is now presented in relation to the rural development programmes.”

Irish farmers are demanding more income support if sterling drops further, amid fears over the lack of progress in the Brexit negotiations.

The IFA has said its members are concerned about the lack of progress and clarity on what the outcome of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union next year will be. Amid mounting fears that talks are continuing with no substantial progress, raising the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, farmers here have called on the Government to hold the EU to its promises that the impact on agriculture in Ireland would be minimised.

“The task for the Taoiseach and the Government is to hold the EU to its position and guarantee that Irish farmers are not exposed in the final outcome,” said an IFA spokesman.

“The UK is our best market and we do not want to see trade disrupted, either by value or volume. In the event of further sterling devaluation, the IFA will seek direct income aid support to Irish farmers on the basis that even a small fall in sterling to 90p could wipe out producer margins.”

Farmers will also seek structural and adjustment support to offset the long-term negative impacts arising from Brexit and are seeking an increase in the CAP budget to cope with the shortfalls.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has been to the fore with warnings that it will be farmers who will bear the brunt of a bad Brexit deal: “There are serious issues at stake in the Brexit negotiations. It will be farmers, businesses, and consumers in Ireland, the UK, and the EU who bear the brunt of a bad outcome.

“We need realistic and complete solutions to the challenges that face us, and we need them very soon. I hope that negotiators can make progress this week.”

There is no upside to Brexit for the Irish agrifood industry, Mr Creed has warned. He said that Brexit is not a “pretty picture” and that the department is very worried that Britain will fill up its supermarket shelves with cheap food from outside the EU. He maintains that a hard Brexit would cost €700m a year and “decimate” the industry.

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