'Family farms under threat from cuts'
ICMSA President John Comer has told his Association's AGM that farmers will not become ' busy fools' for the benefit of processors and retailers and that the family farm model that had served Ireland well for 150 years was now in danger through cutbacks and unfair profit margins being jealously guarded by processors and retailers.
Speaking to hundreds of delegates and a top table that included Minister Coveney and Kevin Lane of the IDB, Mr Comer also repeated his criticism of the Law Society's new regulations governing property conveyancing which he said would double the legal fees involved in even the most straightforward parent-to-child transfer.
The ICMSA President noted that, at the Association's last AGM, there was an air of confidence amongst farmers regarding their futures but unfortunately that had been largely eroded in 2012 in what was an extremely difficult year for farmers. Mr Comer said that as a result of a ruinous combination of terrible weather and a pricecost squeeze, farmers are living on a day-to-day basis and the period until next spring is going to be extremely difficult for farm families to get through…
He said farmers are under unprecedented cash-flow pressures and they need help during this very difficult period.
"Minister, we are clearly saying today that we will be looking to you to introduce measures to alleviate the pressures on farmers. Such measures do exist and they include getting payments to farmers on time, nitrates rules, amendments to scheme rules, ensuring that inspections take account of the weather and special assistance where required by individual farmer", said Mr Comer.
"The family farm structure as we know it in Ireland is under major threat and policy decisions taken over the next 12 months will decide whether [it] will be able to survive and backbone the way of life in rural Ireland in the way it has for 150 years."
He added that farmers are not going to become ' busy fools' for the benefit of processors and retailers and insisted that EU policy must ensure farmers get their fair share of the return in the supply chain. Mr Comer alleged that prices are being controlled by a handful of gigantic corporations who have placed themselves at the heart of the EU food sector and whose role and power seems to be a matter of complete indifference to the EU.
On the future of the CAP, Mr Comer said this is a key issue for Irish farmers and the whole nation.
"Let's be very clear: Irish farmers cannot afford a cut. We've taken serious hits at national level and we simply can't afford further hits at EU level. Since the introduction of the Single Farm Payment, the payment has already been cut by 13 per cent and farmers have suffered another 0.9% cut this year. In a year like 2012, farmers are acutely conscious of the importance of the Single Farm Payment in terms of sustaining their business," he said.