Government will always protect farmers: Varadkar

  

Leo Varadkar will address the IFA AGM today. Picture: Frank McGrath
Leo Varadkar will address the IFA AGM today. Picture: Frank McGrath

Margaret Donnelly and Ciaran Moran

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will tell farmers today at the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) AGM that his Government will always protect them when it comes to Brexit.

Just weeks after announcing he was trying to eat less meat, Mr Varadkar is expected to have beef farmers top of his agenda, as they face their largest market crashing out of the EU under a no-deal Brexit, while Agriculture Minister Michael Creed will announce details of a €20m sustainable beef scheme tomorrow.

Mr Varadkar will also tell beef farmers, who suffered through extreme weather conditions, a fodder crisis and face severe market volatility, that his Government will do everything it can to protect the Common Agricultural Budget (CAP), which is coming under increased pressure.

The CAP budget has been under threat in recent months, with Günther Oettinger, the EU commissioner for budget and human resources, demanding cuts in farm spending, pointing to the €12bn hole in the EU's finances that the UK leaving will create. Under plans for the EU's budget for 2021-2027, farmers would receive around €232bn in direct support, a drop of more than €30bn from the current seven-year budget.

Meanwhile, Mr Creed is looking to Europe for market response measures and exception aid in response to a possible hard Brexit.

Mr Creed held a bilateral meeting with EU Commissioner Phil Hogan yesterday to discuss the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit on the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors.

He stressed the need to deploy market response measures, including exceptional aid, under the CAP to provide necessary supports.

"Commissioner Hogan reiterated the EU's readiness to respond and support Ireland and, in particular, challenges facing Irish farmers and the agri-food sector, given our specific exposure to the UK market," said Mr Creed.

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The UK is the most strategically important trading partner for the Irish agri-food sector, with 38pc of total goods exported to the UK in 2017, and an even greater reliance on the UK market for specific sectors such as the beef industry.

Mr Creed also reiterated the CAP budget is fundamentally important to Irish farmers, particularly now at a time of Brexit uncertainty and in the context of dealing with climate change obligations.

Irish Independent


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