Farmers urged to tackle climate change in battle for CAP funding

Ireland's European Commissioner Phil Hogan. Picture: Fergal Phillips
Ireland's European Commissioner Phil Hogan. Picture: Fergal Phillips
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Farmers must make themselves more "indispensable" towards tackling energy and climate change problems, with an uphill battle ahead in protecting the vital Common Agricultural Policy funding, it has been warned.

European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan said the CAP was viewed as "obvious targets" for cuts as other sectors come with their hands out for a slice of the agriculture or cohesion budget.

A wide-ranging Irish Farmers' Association (IFA)-EU Commission Citizens' Dialogue event on CAP in Co Kilkenny was told it was going to be a "battle" to ensure all member states would agree to top up the EU budget to make up for the €12bn Brexit black hole.

Mr Hogan said that farmers had endured a "nightmare scenario" with the recent weather-related fodder crisis.

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"I am saying this not in any way critical of farmers, but if you don't wake up to the reality that these are issues we have to deal with now rather than in the future, we are going to run in to a problem," he said.

Mr Hogan pointed to the Dutch problem where they had to cull 200,000 cows as they had hit their phosphate limits. "We don't want to have Irish farmers in that situation," he said.

Mr Hogan warned there were a number of budget "outliers" such as the Danes, Dutch, Swedes or Austrians who "do not want to give one extra euro" with a new seven-year budget post-2020 being decided.

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"The problem is there has to be unanimity," he explained, adding the member states had to agree to put in the money.

"As the figures stand at the moment, and in the absence of more money in the budget, there is no chance we are going to get an increase in the budget and we are not going to get indexation because it hasn't been indexed since 2005. I am being realistic and telling people here the truth."

IFA president Joe Healy said farmers needed an increase in the CAP budget, as it was in fact for all EU citizens as it aided farmers in providing safe, high-quality food. He pointed out farm incomes were lower than other sectors and were dependent on the direct payments from Brussels to survive.

He said it was "clear farmers are being taken for granted" as the share of the EU budget that goes to CAP has fallen from 40pc to 34.6pc and has not "kept pace" with inflation.

Mr Healy said farmers were willing to "play their part" in tackling issues such as climate change, but there must be no more rules.

Irish Independent

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