Farming groups welcome Dara Calleary appointment

Farming groups welcome Dara Calleary appointment
Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary. Picture: Gareth Chaney /Collins Photos

Farming groups have welcomed the new Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary after Barry Cowen was sacked after just over two weeks in the job amid a drink driving scandal.

Irish Farmers Association president Tim Cullinan congratulated the new minister but said that he must "hit the ground running".

“We look forward to working with the new Minister to ensure that we harness the full potential of our farming sector,” he said.

“The EU Council on Friday and Saturday where the EU and CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] budgets for the next seven years will be discussed is absolutely critical for Irish farming."

It is "vital" that the new Minister stresses the importance of this to the Taoiseach who will be representing Ireland at the meeting, he said.

Mr Cullinane also called for the urgent distribution of the €50m COVID beef payment to farmers.

President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association Edmond Phelan also welcomed Mr Calleary's appointment as Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine. 

“ICSA looks forward to forging a strong working relationship with Minister Calleary with a focus on delivering economic sustainability to cattle and sheep farmers along with environmental benefits to all,” he said.   

A suckler based application for EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) is "vital" for the sector's survival, he said. 

"Suckler beef must be developed and promoted as a special high value product it is vital to farmers in the west of Ireland especially the Ministers own constituency, and ICSA will be vigorously opposing the inclusion of all beef in the pursuit of such a protected status.” 

Mr Phelan called for the minister to appoint a Food Ombudsman "as a priority" to deliver "total transparency" in the food chain and to ensure that neither processor nor retailer can abuse their positions. 

"Farmers are continuously striving to be more efficient but every incremental gain in efficiency is stolen by an unregulated processing and retailing sector driving down farmgate price, and this must change,” he said.

He also called for more funding for new and existing environmental schemes like the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) and Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS). 

“A new REPS type scheme is also a must. ICSA is calling for a trebling of the current GLAS budget to facilitate such a scheme, given the numbers of farmers it would hope to attract. 

"An annual budget of €750m, or three times the current GLAS budget, would be the minimum required. It is no longer acceptable to expect farmers to do more on climate change without the resources to do so.” 

Mr Phelan also called for a "new and improved" Sheep Welfare Scheme and called for more funding for the sector from next year. 

"The sheep sector has not been supported enough and viability within the sector has become a major issue and can no longer be ignored.”

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