With an eye on the upcoming local and European elections, the President of ICMSA has asked the rural electorate to support candidates who demonstrate a real commitment to farming and rural communities with defined policies and who accept and will act on the basis that farming and the wider food production sector it supports is part of the solution to our environmental challenges and not, as Pat McCormack puts it, “a scapegoat for fears being hyped up by people who themselves have no viable answers or solutions.”
The ICMSA President said that farming in Ireland is always changing and adapting to opportunities and challenges, but the sector has rarely, if ever, experienced as much uncertainty as that which currently prevails. “The last year has seen three major issues come to the fore at national and international level, any one of which, on their own, has the potential to shape for good or bad the very future of Irish agriculture but coming together, as they are, ICMSA does not exaggerate when we say that they will determine the future of Irish farming and the dependent wider rural economy and society. Brexit, CAP Post 2020 and Climate Change either taken on their own or as a package will decide whether we will have a rural economy at all”, he said.
Noting that the Irish economy continues to perform well with strong economic growth and employment levels, Mr. McCormack said there is, nevertheless, a clear issue with the vulnerability of the rural economy. “Brexit, now extended to the end of October, remains a very serious threat and is directly impacting on farmers’ incomes since the second half of 2018 – supports must be introduced immediately to address that fact. The day after the Referendum, Ireland had two strategic priorities: firstly, to prevent the re-introduction of border infrastructure and secondly, to work towards a post Brexit trading regime with our key British market that would be as close to the present arrangements as possible. Recent developments and extensions notwithstanding, it is apparent that neither of these objectives has been categorically secured. It is difficult to exaggerate the negative implications for the whole economy and very specifically, farming and rural areas, in the event of a No Deal or ‘Hard’ Brexit”, he continued, and we need to see real actions on this issue.
“CAP is the key EU policy to support farmers. The Commission proposal is a for a substantial reduction in the CAP. Ireland must ensure that the current CAP budget is at least maintained and that the supports under CAP must be targeted to farmers who are making an economic contribution to their local economy and the national economy. The regulations surrounding CAP must be simplified and reflect the practical realities of farming in Ireland.
Climate Change and the ongoing challenges arising from it are now ‘front and centre’ in daily discourse. Farmers are being unfairly targeted in this debate by certain vested interests and Irish agriculture can play a very positive role in addressing climate change if appropriate policies are adopted. ICMSA believes in, and will work towards, a model that sees farmers as part of the solution. Global population is growing and accordingly, demand for food is growing. Ireland is one of the most carbon-efficient producers of dairy and beef on the planet and thus should be supported by all those campaigning for reductions in global emissions. It is completely illogical to reduce production of food in carbon-efficient systems and switch that production to other more environmentally damaging producers. If this is a global problem – and it is – then the solution must take a global approach and produce food where it is most carbon efficient to do so.
The upcoming EU and local elections present farmers and rural dwellers with an opportunity to set out their concerns to politicians. ICMSA has set its key demands to candidates in rural constituencies and it is essential that all individual farmers and rural dwellers insist that those going for election put farming and rural issues at the top of their agendas, concluded Mr. McCormack.
Ends. 2 May 2019
Pat McCormack, 087-7608958
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office