Battle for rural votes to kick up a gear as Casey vows to 'fight tooth and nail' for farmers
Presidential election runner up and now European Parliament hopeful Peter Casey has committed to fight tooth and nail to secure a better deal for farmers and rural Ireland.
The controversial candidate is set for a tough fight in the Midlands and West constituency with a host of strong incumbent MEPs also contesting including Luke Flanagan, Matt Carthy and Mairead McGuiness.
Mr Casey rose to national prominence after claiming Travellers should not be recognised as an ethnic minority.
The Donegal resident continues to stand by those comments but says his new campaign will be much broader.
The battle for the farmers' votes is set to kick up a gear this week with prospective candidates set to debate the pressing issues facing agriculture at an IFA organised event in Mayo.
The IFA has told its members not to vote for candidates that are not willing to ‘fight on their backs’ for Irish farmers.
Casey has committed to “winning a fair deal for farmers” by fighting in Europe for an increased Common Agricultural Policy budget.
He said he will battle for a bigger budget to compensate farmers for additional requirements resulting from the CAP reform currently being negotiated and committed to “battling tooth and nail to secure a better deal for farmers and rural Ireland”.
“The bad news for farmers is that many are only subsisting; in 2018 average farm incomes declined by 15pc.
“The CAP budget must be increased to account for inflation and to compensate our farmers for any additional requirements imposed on them by the newly reformed policy," he said.
Under plans for the EU’s budget (MFF) for 2021-2027, farmers would receive around €232 billion in direct support, a drop of more than €30 billion from the current seven-year budget.
However, the Commission's current proposals are based on a certain increase in member state contributions and not all member states are willing to make a contribution.
The Dutch led the charge for rich northern states unwilling to step into the Brexit breach: “A smaller EU ... should have a smaller budget,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said.
One of the key issues for farmers in the constituency is the continued convergence of farm payments planned in the next reform of the CAP.
Luke Flanagan says that it was not "rational or equitable to have farm support payments based on historic criteria two decades old".
"In terms of defending the CAP budget going forward, it is not credible or defensible to the public that in 2027 we will be paying farmers based on their activities in 2002," he said.
The Roscommon-based MEP has also taken aim at claims that the most productive farmers received the highest payments.
"Data [from the Department of Agriculture] shows that despite payments ranging from €100/ha to €1,000/ha, there is only a marginal difference in stocking rates. When looked at through the lens of output per euro received, it is clear that those on lower payments are in fact the most productive," he argued.
However, Fine Gael MEP, Mairead McGuinness, cautioned that "those who paint convergence as simply taking from the rich to give to the poor ignore the complex reality at farm level".
While accepting that many farmers on low-value entitlements will benefit from such a move, she said farmers who have only a small number of entitlements above the average level, but whose total payment is small, will lose under full convergence.
"I am also concerned about the unintended consequence of convergence where full-time farm families with above-average entitlement value will lose money, while landowners with significant off-farm income will gain at their expense," Ms McGuinness said.
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