ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has today outlined the need to re-think the EU vision in a meeting with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister of State Martin Heydon at Government Buildings. “Recent years have seen Brussels led by grandiose visions while the economic and social impact on rural communities has been side-lined or brushed under the carpet,” he said.
“Today I emphasised the need to remember what Ireland’s vital national interests are. Tragically, this week we have seen the dangers of relegating security to a secondary consideration. We have seen that allowing the EU and the West to be so vulnerable on energy security is at least partly to blame for making Putin feel invincible. It is clear our focus must shift to food security, energy security, and the security of the EU in broad economic and social terms.”
Mr Kelleher stressed that ICSA are not against the EU Green Deal but said, “We must be careful not to put the cart before the horse; a Green Deal without food security is a disaster waiting to happen.
Equally, we are not against the EU Biodiversity Strategy – but we are very opposed to losing large amounts of land to designation, and undermining food production capabilities.
Nor are we against the EU Farm to Fork strategy – but Ireland cannot stand back and allow our meat sectors to be sold out in favour of fake burgers which benefit Silicon Valley investors at the expense Irish primary producers.”
The association’s president said ICSA is in favour of renewable energy – but that it is time to make sure that Irish and EU farmers are helped to deliver more energy security in biogas, biofuel and solar.
Mr Kelleher said he was there to represent the low-income suckler, beef, and sheep farmers who combined generated €2.5 billion worth of exports in 2021. “This comprised of beef exports to the value of €2.1 billion and exports of sheepmeat to the value of €420 million – the majority of which was produced by low-income suckler, beef, and sheep farmers in every parish of rural Ireland. It is important to understand the reach of these enterprises into every community in Ireland,” he said.
Mr Kelleher made it clear that ICSA is very disappointed with the national CAP Strategic Plan. “There is actually a drop in support for the suckler cow and the support for the sheep sector is mediocre.We want the government to prioritise additional supports for sucklers, sheep and beef in the next budget and to provide certainty over the next five years for these sectors.”
He said that while €256 million for Organics is ambitious, questions remain around whether there is the strategy to build our organic exports and deliver premium prices at meat factory level and at Bord Bia level. “Meanwhile most farmers will not be organic, but they have a vital role to play in the Green Agenda. To this end, a maximum payment of €7,000 for the Agri Environment Scheme for the majority of farmers is very poor.”
On the climate strategy Mr Kelleher said farmers are willing to do their bit but that expectations must be realistic. “To reach a 18% reduction in agriculture emissions will be very challenging. To get to 30% in our view is totally impractical and this is backed up by Farmers Journal KPMG report. An immediate priority must be to find a way of paying farmers for carbon credits, for the carbon they store.”
“Equally, the Government must not sit idly by when vested interests tarnish our quality livestock products on health or on climate grounds. A good example is the recent Global Burden of Disease report which has no credibility when you look at how it changed from 2017 to 2019 and which is now being challenged by exports like Alice Stanton, Patrick Wall and Fredrich Leroy.”
He said the Government must demand that there is no reduction in EU promotion support for meat and that we must challenge the EU Nutriscore which also has the potential to undermine our vital national interest in favour of ultra-processed food produced by multinationals.
Finally, the ICSA president reaffirmed the need for the establishment of a strong, independent, and properly resourced beef regulatorto bring transparency to who makes what in the food chain. He said this must be done in combination with Commissioner McGuinness delivering more transparency on big companies with over €1 billion in turnover.