The days are gone when farmers undervalue the input they make to their businesses, according to ICSA General Secretary Eddie Punch.
Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships, he said that the vast majority of farmers only think of themselves, once everyone else has been paid.
“This approach is fundamentally wrong. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that the malaise of considering farmers to be worthy of the minimum wage only is reflected across agriculture as a whole.
“For example, Teagasc use this yardstick when assessing the profitability of the various farm enterprises.
“But the reality is that farmers bring a tremendous skill base to bear when it comes to the development of their businesses. And this must be reflected in the incomes they generate.”
Punch said that the fundamental challenge facing production agriculture is that of ensuring farmers get a fair share of the retail cake. And it’s up to the EU Commission to deliver on this matter, he said.
Brussels is well capable of forensically examining the minutiae of small family farm operations. So the Commission should have no problem, whatsoever, in taking the same approach with the supermarkets across Europe.
“All of this work can be carried out in ways that do not expose commercially sensitive information.”
Punch believes that EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, must step up to the plate in actually delivering agri-food sector transparency for farmers, both in Ireland and the rest of Europe.
“Phil Hogan has been in post for two years now. So it’s time he delivered on this crucially important matter.”
Punch also believes that the transparency issue must be fundamentally addressed within the context of the next CAP review process.
“This work needs to be done now,” he said.
“If it’s left to the last minute, we will be served up a set of proposals by the Commission which may not address this fundamental issue. And by that stage, it will be too late to for farming groups to secure the fundamental reforms they want.”