DEAR SIR: It is with total bewilderment and disappointment that we find ourselves at odds with our MEPs, who feel that Irish farmers can continue to produce beef, sheepmeat and cereals with ever reducing supports. The very foundation of the Common Agricultural Policy which has supported every farm family and rural community for the last 40 years is being turned on its head.

We all know that our environment will have centre stage for the foreseeable future, but food will still have to be produced and if the EU wants to continue with a cheap food policy, family farms will have to be adequately supported. Common sense should be applied in making decisions that will affect so many families.

Supports were put in place to ensure enough quality food was produced for every person in Europe. Nobody can produce meat that costs €4.50/kg, yet the market only returns €4.00/kg. Likewise with grains, which are costing €160/t to produce, the world market is paying €150/t.The EU cannot expect us to produce at world market prices and yet use inferior imports to set our price.

The Irish family farm model is unique. It has proven to be a sustainable model, from both a production and environmental perspective. If we continue to see the demise of this model and the increase in industrial farming, we will do irreversible damage to our economy and the 350,000 people who work in the industry.

We have heard a lot of talk about the value of entitlements and who should have them. The land that produces food should be rewarded accordingly and the land that is incapable of producing sustainable volumes of food should continue to be supported with Pillar II payments and new environmental funds, not robbing Peter to pay Paul. I would ask our politicians a number of questions:

  • With decreased supports and increasing costs, how can the productive sector continue?
  • When the tillage sector becomes unviable, how can our livestock sector continue to export with a green image when up to 6m tonnes of grain will have to be imported?
  • The CAP budget was designed to make sustainable quality food for all – do you think it is right that it has turned into an environmental fund, allowing increased imports into European markets from less environmentally sustainable areas of the world?
  • Finally, I would ask our politicians to use common sense, do the simple maths and think of the consequences of the current policy. To fellow farmers, let’s work together for the good of everyone before we have to bring the house down.