Farmers 'must be protected from cuts' in wake of Brexit
Fianna Fáíl wants the Government to pressure Europe into making higher contributions to farmers and make sure common agricultural policy (CAP) payments are not cut in the wake of Brexit.
The European Commission is preparing to make a series of budget cuts and wants to source new revenue streams as concerns grow about a significant financial gap in European coffers once Britain leaves the EU.
Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue said the Government needs to sit down and Brexit-proof farmers' payments after a possible 30pc cut to the CAP budget was proposed this week.
Such a cut would see farming incomes plunge.
Mr McConalogue said Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan have a responsibility to protect farmers ahead of a discussion among EU leaders later this month.
"Direct payments under CAP sustain rural communities and the family model of farming throughout Europe by providing a vital income source to European food producers," he said. "Fine Gael has a responsibility to stand up for Irish farmers in these negotiations. A cut to the CAP budget cannot be countenanced.
"The Government must put a strong case forward in Europe and build support for an increase in budget contributions among the remaining EU countries."
Farmers across Europe are concerned after it was revealed a European Commission document outlined options for a new budget. The document includes a proposal that would see CAP funding cut by up to 30pc from 2020. Some 80pc of direct payments go to 20pc of farmers.
This means average farm incomes could drop by as much as 10pc.
Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said he is not in favour of cuts but added he thinks CAP payments will have to be reduced "to meet all the new priorities we have to meet".
Mr McConalogue said such comments will worry farmers.
Annually, Ireland gets around €2bn in farm subsidies.
EU leaders will meet on Friday to discuss the CAP ahead of a budgetary proposal in May.
"Any reduction in this budget could prove catastrophic for the Irish agri sector," Mr McConalogue said.
"CAP is the backbone of Irish farming, with payments to Ireland making up around 75pc of total farm income. While a UK exit from the EU will leave a €3bn hole in the CAP budget, the remaining EU 27 need to show solidarity with their primary producers.
"Additional contributions must be considered if the livelihoods of 22 million farmers across the continent are to be secured."