In a speech addressing the organisation’s 63rd AGM, IFA president Joe Healy has stated that 2018 will be a defining year for Irish farmers, with the challenges of Brexit, CAP, Mercosur and climate change collectively facing the country’s agriculture sector.
President Healy has reissued his insistence that no hard border should exist between the north and south of Ireland when the UK exits the EU in 14 months.
Speaking at 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 third 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.
“The commitment to continued regulatory alignment is a good start, but we are now entering the crucial stage of the negotiations where the future trading arrangements will be decided.”
As CAP 2020 comes into view, a huge amount of focus is was placed on the future of what is a main source of income for many farmers in Ireland.
Healy said: “There must be a strong CAP budget. It must have two elements: direct payments supporting active farmers, and a well-funded Rural Development Programme.”
We cannot have a situation where EU farmers have their incomes cut because the UK decided to leave
However, there are fears over the potential shortfall in CAP funding after the UK leave Europe.
“We’ve heard plenty about a vision for the future of Europe. The rhetoric has to be matched by substance,” Healy said on the issue.
“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.”
Healy said that in relation to CAP, it was time for the Government to come forward and stand by the farming community in delivering a strong CAP for Irish farmers.
According to the EPA last year, agriculture was the highest emitter of carbon in the country.
As dairy herds continue to grow, there is an increasing concern over the sustainability of Irish farming and its impact on climate change.
Healy said: “Since 1990, our agricultural output has grown by 40% while our GHG emissions have fallen by 3.5%.
"Farmers are playing their part and we will continue to do so. However, any ask of us has to be logical. It has to be practical.
"What is incredibly frustrating for farmers is to hear so much emphasis on climate issues by key European politicians, while at the same time they are proposing to give Mercosur countries, including Brazil, more access to the European market.”
We’ll have more updates on the Irish Farmers Journal app and online throughout the day as the AGM continues.