Farmers protest at office of agriculture minister over '€250m CAP loss'
MORE than a thousand farmers have picketed the office of a Government minister to warn of the potential impact of reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The demonstration outside the constituency office of Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney in Carrigaline, Co Cork, was organised by the Irish Farmers Association (IFA).
The farmers urged Mr Coveney to take a tougher line with the European Commission, warning that proposed CAP reforms could deliver a potentially "fatal blow" the Irish agriculture sector.
They have insisted that the planned redistribution of EU subsidies to farmers would cause major damage to the industry.
A move to a per hectare flat rate payment system would potentially see payments cut to thousands of the most productive farmers, with an accompanying increase in support for those with farms in less productive areas.
The IFA has said it is concerned that European Commission proposals to move to a system of flat-rate payments per hectare will cost 80,000 of the country's most productive farmers a combined €250 million.
IFA president John Bryan said Mr Coveney was downplaying the potential impact of the changes.
He said the minister had to tell the Commission the deal will not work for Ireland.
"What farmers want to see from our minister is a tougher approach with the Commission that will deliver a deal for Irish farming that keeps our active farmers in business, and our expansion plans on target," he said.
Mr Bryan added: "The CAP proposals on the table are moving too far, too quickly towards a flat payment system, and unless the minister stands up and shouts stop, irreparable damage will be done to Irish agriculture".
But Mr Coveney has insisted a reform of CAP is needed to make the system fairer for all farmers.