Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has rejected claims that Irish farmers will “lose out” under the current CAP proposals.

“The budget at European level is actually marginally up on what it was for the outgoing seven years and in relation to Pillar II of CAP, it’s up by about 20%,” Minister McConalogue told RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime on Friday.

He said the issues of convergence, eco schemes and frontloading remain up for discussion and could have implications in relation to how the funding pot that Ireland will have is distributed at national level.

“That could see some farmers’ incomes increase from CAP but also see some farmers’ incomes decrease and those obviously are important decisions and ones that are of concern to many farmers.

“That’s why it is important that we do have the flexibility to make those decisions at national level after full consultation at national level.”

Key decisions

Minister McConalogue said he was fighting at European level to ensure that there is a CAP outcome which is flexible in facilitating key decision-making at a national level.

“What works in Malta won’t necessarily work in Maam Cross, what works in Croatia won’t necessarily work in Carndonagh, so that flexibility needs to be there,” he said.

“Farmers can be assured that I’m working on their behalf to get a CAP which ultimately serves the country well, serves farm families well and also protects farm incomes.”

National herd

The minister was asked where he expects the cattle herd to stand in five years’ time, and if he expected it to be bigger, smaller or the same.

“I think we have to maintain a stable national herd and alongside that work to reduce the carbon footprint of the food we produce.

“There needs to be recognition there, whether it’s beef or whether it’s milk, at international level when you look at comparable countries, we do that really efficiently and in a way that is very climate-friendly as well.”

He said Ireland has to improve on the sustainability of food production and improve the carbon footprints of farms.

“This narrative that somehow agriculture is the sole source of emissions is absolutely wrong and dominates far too much of the conversation,” Minister McConalogue said.