Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has said that the so-called consultation process initiated into the next Common Agriculture Policy is developing into little more than a staged PR exercise.
Teachta Carthy was speaking after receiving numerous complaints from farmers who attended an on-line presentation this week that was described as a townhall meeting hosted by officials from the Department of Agriculture.
He said that the meetings marked ‘a new low-point’ in this government’s engagement with farmers.
Teachta Carthy said:
“Minister McConalogue went to Brussels to argue against the interests of the majority of Irish farmers by opposing every measure aimed at delivering redistribution of CAP funds towards smaller and poorer farmers.
“He did so on the stated basis that he wanted decisions to be made in Ireland with the full input of farmers. Many, myself included, have been sceptical about his real purpose.
“The outworking of the online presentations this week will re-enforce that scepticism. What occurred on Tuesday evening will leave many farmers wondering if they will have any input at all into this strategic plan. It certainly cannot be described as a townhall meeting. It hardly amounts to consultation at all in most people’s definition.
“Farmers had no opportunity to contribute, they had to type questions out, those questions could only be seen those hosting the webinar.
“Consultation requires genuine dialogue between parties – these presentations are little more than a stage-managed public relations exercise that the Minister could only get away with because of ongoing restrictions related to the pandemic.
“Farmers were promised a consultation that would be brought to every calving shed and milking parlour – they have clearly expressed their opinion that these presentations do not represent that.
“The CAP Strategic Plan is too important to be left in the hands of the Minister and a small number of department officials. The voices of farmers, and the communities that depend on them, must be heard.
“Unfortunately, our family farmers are well too used to being treated as an annoying appendage to Irish agriculture by the Department and successive Ministers of Agriculture, rather than as the primary stakeholder that they truly are.
“Minister McConalogue must immediately re-evaluate his plans for carrying out this consultation, and outline to farmers exactly how it is intended to take place.
“Particularly in light of this poor start to the consultation process, it is now imperative that the Minister agree that the CAP Strategic Plan goes before the Dáil for full scrutiny and approval.”