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2018: A Defining Year For Irish Farming

IFA President Joe Healy tells the 63rd AGM of the major challenges facing the agricultural sector in the year ahead.

The President of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Joe Healy addressed the organisation’s 63rd Annual General Meeting today and said “2018 will be a defining year in farming” for Ireland.

Never before have such major challenges as Brexit, the CAP Budget, Mercosur and climate change converged in a single year.

He said IFA will be there to represent the interests of all farmers.

“The next 12 months will be a test of the European Union’s commitment to our sector. We expect Europe to stand by farmers and acknowledge the support Irish farmers have shown towards the European Union.”

Brexit

Mr Healy acknowledged the work done by the Irish Government in the lead up to and during last December’s talks. It sets a foundation stone for the next phase, which will be very important for our sector.

Brexit remains the most serious threat to Irish farming and our agri-food sector for half a century.

Addressing the AGM, he said:

“Post Brexit, we cannot have a scenario where the UK Government can do as they please as regards agricultural trade with 3rd countries. If the UK wants continued access to the EU market, the EU must insist that the UK will not be free to open their markets to low standard or low value products from outside the EU.

“However, for the Irish agri food sector, the focus needs to be on the relationship between the EU and the entirety of the UK. North-South Regulatory alignment will help to solve one problem – no hard border in Ireland. East-West Regulatory Alignment has the potential to deliver a lot more – to avoid major disruption for Irish food exporters to our largest market, Britain.”

CAP Reform

Mr Healy stressed the importance of having a strong CAP budget after 2020. He said that it was important for Europe but vital for Ireland, in particular, rural Ireland, as without a strong CAP, Irish beef, sheep and tillage farmers will go out of business.

He reinforced:

“There must be a strong CAP budget. It must have two elements: direct payments supporting active farmers, and a well-funded Rural Development Programme.

“Our European leaders have to step up and provide a strong budget. This means that Member States will have to contribute more to the EU budget to make up for the shortfall as a result of the UK’s departure.

“We cannot have a situation where EU farmers have their incomes cut because the UK decided to leave.”

Climate Change

At the recent Foodwise 2025 Conference in Croke Park, EU Commissioner Phil Hogan issued what he termed a ‘wake up call’ to the Irish agricultural sector on Green House Gas emissions and climate change targets.

Mr Healy wished to assure the Commissioner that Irish farmers have been and continue to be ‘Wide Awake’ on these issues.

He continued:

“The World population is due to increase from 7 billion to at least 9 billion people by 2050. The world will need to produce a lot more food. Ireland is the most carbon efficient producer of dairy products in Europe and the 5th most carbon efficient producer of beef in Europe.

“Since 1990, our agricultural output has grown by 40% while our GHG emissions have fallen by 3.5%.

“Smart Farming is delivering real returns – those who have taken part in the programme have cut emissions by 10% while improving their profitability by an average of €8,700.”

The author: Nick Fitzgerald