Farmers angry at 'damaging' 5pc cut in CAP
Farmers have condemned the European Commission's proposal to cut funding of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) by 5pc.
Under the new proposals, EU expenditure on the policy will fall to 30pc of the total EU budget.
Irish farming organisations said it would present a huge challenge for the agricultural sector unless the Government stood up to fight against the cuts.
According to the commission, the modernised Common Agricultural Policy will have a budget of €365bn and continue to be built around two pillars: direct payments to farmers and rural development funding.
For the latter, the commission proposes to increase national co-financing rates.
The commission said the reformed policy will place a greater emphasis on the environment and climate. It will support the transition towards a more sustainable agricultural sector and the development of vibrant rural areas.
Direct payment levels per hectare between EU member states will be streamlined and better targeted, while a stronger focus will be put on supporting small and medium-sized farms, it said in its statement.
Under the new rules, member states will be given more responsibility for making the best use of the agriculture budget. A new crisis reserve will also be created.
Writing in today's Irish Independent, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan cited the impact of Brexit. He warned that "in the absence of more money from member states, there will be a cut to the CAP budget, and there's no point trying to sugar-coat that fact".
But he argues that "against the backdrop of Brexit and the €12bn hole it is blowing in the overall European budget ... the CAP budget is being cut by less than 5pc".
Mr Hogan adds: "I regard this as a very fair outcome for Irish farmers, particularly given the challenging circumstances in which the budget has been framed."
However, IFA president Joe Healy heaped pressure on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, stating he has a big political challenge on his hands, and an increased CAP budget for Irish farmers has to be a red-line issue for him in the negotiations.
He said a reduction in the CAP budget post-2020 would be a big blow for Irish farmers.
"It is clear that the commission has moved to fill the Brexit gap, but they have prioritised other areas at the expense of the CAP, which is another setback for Irish farmers on foot of the UK decision to leave," Mr Healy said.
"All sectors have shared in the economic revival, yet farmers have had their direct payments eroded by inflation. At the very least, farmers need a CAP increase in line with inflation."
Meanwhile, ICMSA president Pat McCormack described the cut as unacceptable and said the proposal will have a disproportionately damaging effect in rural Ireland.
He said farmers suffered significant cuts in previous CAP reforms and were now again having to take a substantial hit.