Commenting on the EU Commission Communication on “The Future of Food and Farming”, the President of ICMSA said that it was noteworthy that while farm income is mentioned and dealt with in the communication, the over-riding emphasis appears to be on environmental and climate change matters and it was therefore extremely difficult to see either improved farmer incomes or a simplified system being progressed based on today’s Communication. John Comer said that ‘Sustainability’ is obviously the Commission’s new ‘buzz word’ for farming but it was perfectly clear that any concept of economic sustainability for farmers is still way down the Commission’s list of priorities.
“Clearly there are a number of positives in the Communication which should be acknowledged, we particularly recognise the suggestions that support is targeted to genuine farmers who are actively farming in order to earn their living, a compulsory cap on direct payments, and the interest expressed in the ICMSA proposal for a Farm Management Deposit Scheme that would enable farmers, through the taxation system, to save funds in good years to cope with bad years. We also warmly welcome the recognition of farmers’ completely disadvantaged position in the food supply chain and the ambition to change this”, said Mr. Comer.
“However, the disappointing aspect of the Communication is the absence of any concrete measures from the EU Commission to address the utterly destructive price volatility that is wrecking the family farm system. The concept of risk management is being put forward again, but, in ICMSA opinion, in periods of market downturn what is required is direct action by the EU Commission to address income crisis: The Voluntary Milk Supply Reduction Scheme is a clear example of an effective measure of the type that should be used going forward. Unless we have that capacity for direct action under the CAP crisis such as those experienced in the dairy and tillage sectors in 2016 will not be addressed adequately and more and more family farms will go out of business”, he continued.
In terms of simplification, Mr. Comer said that ICMSA understands the challenges of climate change and environmental issues but to suggest that these can be addressed within the existing CAP budget while at the same time reducing bureaucracy on farmers was, frankly, almost impossible.
“The starting point for any debate here is the CAP Budget post 2020 and it’s absolutely critical that the current CAP Budget is, at least, maintained, so we welcome the Government commitment in this regard post Brexit. It is absolutely essential that farm families across the EU are not made pay for Brexit in the same way as they ended up paying for the Russian boycott”, he said.
Mr. Comer concluded by stating that farmers will be concerned by the lack of any priority or prominence given to their economic viability under CAP as it goes forward. There would also be reservations about the still excessive levels of bureaucracy and the lack of any plan to address South American beef imports produced without any standards and in an environmentally reckless manner.
Ends 29 November.
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press office