Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to come clean on the fact that he has been arguing against the interests of the majority of Irish farmers during CAP negotiations in Brussels.
He accused the Fianna Fáil Minister of jeopardising CAP payments for farmers at the behest of vested interests and has said that the position of Minister McConalogue was in stark contrast to his pre-election commitment to deliver fairness in CAP.
CAP negotiations that were expected to conclude this week ended without agreement on Friday due to resistance from the Irish government.
Teachta Carthy said:
“The fundamental problem with the next CAP is the EU budget; a budget agreed by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael which will see funding for the Common Agriculture Policy drastically cut while Irish farmers will be expected to do more for less.
“But, the negotiations over the past few weeks have been about addressing the inequalities within CAP. At the moment different farms in Ireland receive different payments per hectare, based on production levels of two decades ago. Most EU countries have moved to a flat rate payment per hectare – a process known as convergence.
“Such a process would benefit the majority of farmers in Ireland. 72,000 family farms would get more.
“While in opposition, the Minister demanded continued convergence, even during the transition period. In power he is delaying the entire CAP process fighting against it.
“The main argument against convergence has been that it could affect farmers with small holdings but with higher hectare payments. The way to address that is through a front-loaded payment which would allow every farmer to get a higher payment for their first number of hectares. Such a process would be of great benefit to smaller farmers – but, again, Minister McConalogue has been fighting such proposals vigorously at EU level.
“Likewise, the Minister has been fighting against a robust upper-limit CAP payment which would prevent some farm enterprises draw down payments in excess of €100,000 so that more funds could be redistributed to poorer farmers.
“The Minister needs to come clean – whose interest is he fighting for?
“He claims to want ‘flexibility’ – what he is advocating for is actually prevailing the inequality within the Common Agriculture Policy.
“The outworking of Minister McConalogue’s position is that the CAP process will be delayed, putting payments at risk, and ensuring that those family farms that have been disadvantaged for the past twenty years will continue to be discriminated against.
“Unfortunately, Charlie McConalogue has joined a long-line of Irish Agriculture Ministers who have been opposed to the redistribution of CAP funds that would benefit small-to-medium farmers and, in this instance, he is willing to jeopardise the entire Common Agricultural Policy to prevent it from happening.
“Sinn Féin have sought for the Minister to come before the Dáil next week to explain his position”.