Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 20 August 2017

Farmers are pro-European - but unhappy with payments

While farmers are very pro-Europe, their attitude to direct payments from the EU is largely negative, with 75pc saying they are unhappy with the current system. Stock picture
While farmers are very pro-Europe, their attitude to direct payments from the EU is largely negative, with 75pc saying they are unhappy with the current system. Stock picture

Margaret Donnelly and Ciaran Moran

Farmers are overwhelmingly pro-European but would prefer to get a fairer price for produce than subsidies.

A huge 80pc of farmers say we should remain within the EU and not consider leaving, despite the Irish agri-food sector's reliance on the UK as an export destination.

While farmers are very pro-Europe, their attitude to direct payments from the EU is largely negative, with 75pc saying they are unhappy with the current system.

They believe that payments are unfairly distributed or they would prefer a fair price for their produce instead of subsidies.

The findings are contained in the Farm Ireland National Survey of Farmers 2017 which provides a snapshot of rural hopes and fears.

It was conducted on behalf of Independent News and Media's leading agri-news website FarmIreland.ie and surveyed more than 1,000 farmers countrywide.

Yesterday, the Irish Independent reported on the overwhelming support among farmers (72pc) for prenuptial agreements amid concerns about land ownership following marital breakdown.

Read More: You can't let us be ruined by Brexit, IFA tells EU


Today, more details of farmers' attitudes to Europe are revealed at a time of great uncertainty with Brexit looming large.

The UK is Ireland's most important trading partner for the agri-food sector, and Brexit could mean a reduction in the value of Irish agri-food exports of anything from €150m (1.5pc) to €800m (7.2pc) per annum.

But when asked if we should consider leaving the EU, 80pc of respondents to the survey said Ireland should not consider an exit, while 16pc said we should and 4pc said they did not know.

These figures back up recent research which found that Ireland is among the least likely countries to vote to leave the EU.

However, the figures are in stark contrast to farmers in the UK, 58pc of whom said they wanted to leave the EU, with just 31pc saying they wanted the UK to remain within the trade bloc.

The hugely positive attitude towards Europe here is no doubt a reflection of the monies that Irish farmers have received from Europe, but also the recognition of the need to export the majority of Irish food and drink and the importance of access to the European market.

Between 2007 and 2013, the EU through the Common Agricultural Policy invested more than €11.7bn in Ireland's farming sector and rural areas, and secured the supply of safe, affordable and quality food for its citizens.

However, farmers were vocal in their dislike of subsidies over a 'fair price' for their produce. Others said that the distribution of subsidies was unfair, with those most in need not getting enough.

When farmers were asked whether they received enough money from Europe through the Basic Payment, many stated that they would prefer no subsides but a fairer price for their produce.

Distribution issues were also raised by many farmers, with a combined total of 74pc saying they are not happy with current European support for farmers.

According to those surveyed, 41pc of farmers believe they are not getting enough money through direct payments, while 34pc of farmers believe that the way in which payments are distributed needs to be changed.

Irish Independent