I was in Clonakilty for the IFA’s ‘Enough is Enough’ protest on Thursday evening last. Chatting to some farmers there, they were aggrieved and frustrated, especially with some of the policy measures that arose in 2023.

In these parts, there’s a bitter taste on how efforts to convince the EU of the importance to the region of the nitrates derogation fell on deaf ears.

There’s even a feeling among some that they were strung along by politicians and all the energy they expanded making their case was in vain.

That was the issue, especially in the parts of west Cork where a lot of family farms depend on availing of the nitrates derogation to stay economically sustainable.

The reality of the changes are impacting farms now. ACRES, and the lack of payments, along with delayed payments due to the new CAP, has caused anger too.

Before that protest came into being, the fact that German farmers were protesting and on such a large scale has been a talking point in a few conversations I had recently. We’re accustomed to seeing French farmer protests, but the Germans not so much. It was getting serious when they were taking action.

As tractors were about to leave the showgrounds in Clonakilty there was a feeling that they wanted to do more. Calving and ground work might curb those feelings for the next few weeks but the sense farmers that were fed up and the mood wasn’t great were palpable.

Angry farmers will be a magnet for a range of promises and causes as votes are sought

Given the year that it is, where European and local elections are due and a general election won’t be too far in the offing, farmers are going to be popular.

Angry farmers will be a magnet for a range of promises and causes as votes are sought and as a result, I think the farmer vote could be divided out among candidates in a manner never seen before.

Farmer voting block

In 2023, 128,712 farmers applied for the new Basic Income Support for Sustainable (BISS). That’s similar to the population of a five-seat Dáil Éireann constituency. In the 2020 general election, the Green Party, the Government’s bogey man on farming and rural issues, received 155,695 first preference votes.

Farm families, and wider rural votes, increases the farmer voting block but where those votes go will be interesting.

Keeping on the theme of anger and reactions, I’m trying to work out if there’s a replacement, replacement index in the SCEP stars saga.

Currently, there’s a replacement, terminal, and dairy beef index. For further confusion they’re available across and within breed. For good measure, there’s a commercial beef value (CBV) on the young stock too. All that before adding SCEP specific carryovers.

If it’s confusing now, what will it be like when, or if, there’s a new suckler scheme in the next incarnation of CAP.

It reminds me of someone pucking the ball down the road and in five years’ time someone else can be scratching around the ditch looking for solutions to it.

Maybe SCEP should be left alone and include the newer index as an option for the new beef welfare scheme instead.

There’s been various non-compulsory options in the other secondary schemes before, so could this be a place to introduce it and trial it. Let whoever wants to take that option make their own decision.

The economic breeding index (EBI), used in dairy was introduced in 2001.

Fast forward 23 years and there are still plenty of farmers who don’t care for it.