Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Viewpoint: The gloves are off as politicians go chasing the farming vote

Eamon O Cuiv
Eamon O Cuiv

Louise Hogan

And they're off. The wheeling and dealing in political circles we will experience over the next few weeks would probably astound even the most astute cattle dealer.

But when incumbent TDs and hopeful candidates start landing on doorsteps over the next few weeks, it's a chance for farm families to seek action.

There may be fleets of cars once again making their ways along the motorways into the cities, but those living in rural communities feel they've been left behind by our economic recovery.

I'm sure I'm not the only one left dismayed by the closed businesses on the high streets of many of the small towns and villages that I pass through.

We've had many phonecalls to the Farming Independent from farmers and rural dwellers who feel that their communities are lagging far behind in the recent much-touted recovery.

The development of rural Ireland and investment in rural areas should be among the key demands of farm families as politicians come a-knocking.

The list of demands will be lengthy. There are few communities that have escaped the scourge of rural crime this year, with many farmers being hit not just once but multiple times by thieves targeting quads, chainsaws and any other items they may be able to offload.

In other areas, families and businesses have been left counting the cost after flooding, and demands must be made for flood defences and other measures.

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In recent days, the IFA set out their 'wish list' as the lobbying began in earnest.

It includes a call for more spending on farm schemes to the tune of €580m, including restoring cuts to payment rates for disadvantaged areas and upping the monies for GLAS.

In addition they're calling for payments of €200 per suckler cow and €20 a ewe.

As farm incomes have come under pressure in recent years, it rightly points out that there were 250,000 farm votes out there to be "played" for.

Both the IFA and the ICMSA have highlighted the need for a strong Beef Forum this year and the need for a 'policeman' to govern it.

This will be especially important given a considerable rise in cattle numbers expected this year.

Even as Fine Gael highlight the tax incentives they've set out for the farm sector in recent budgets, Fianna Fail's agriculture spokesman éamon Ó Cuív sounded an alarm bell at the weekend when he maintained that the Rural Development Programme is €300m short and ANC payments must be restored to 2008 levels.

It may be early days but it is clear the gloves are off.

Indo Farming