Current derogations granted to farmers are necessary and appreciate the value and quality of Ireland's grass-based produce, European candidate for the midlands and north west Barry Cowen has said.

In order to maintain these derogations, the Fianna Fáil TD said that all sectors need to play their part in making water quality improvements.

From speaking with farmers and food producers in his constituency, Cowen said that it's the same issues which continually arise - too much paperwork as well as supports and payments that are, in many cases, after delivery and not upfront.

“We need less unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape. Farmers want to be farming and not burdened by paperwork. Grants, supports, eco schemes, changes in farm practices - all such efforts must see front loading of costs and rewards with society being repaid thereafter by virtue of the farmers maintaining and enhancing food quality. Farmers and producers need to feel supported to financially achieve that change and not burdened by it,” he said.

Cowen said that, if elected, it's his intention to replace the cost forgone metric that has been in place up to now with a rewards-based system for farm families.

Custodians of the land

“That will ensure that they as custodians of the land produce sustainable food, quality food, food of worldwide renown that meets environmental ambition while responding to consumer sentiment.

"We recently succeeded in tailoring Nature Restoration Law from its original and imperialistic form to one which now appreciates the State's commitment vis-á-vis Bord na Móna and Coillte lands. For whom, participation in that scheme in the future will be voluntary and for those that opt out they will retain their single farm payment and won't see it impacted negatively.

“The cost of the scheme will be met by the climate fund that was approved in last year's budget and it will be separate and distinct from the CAP,” he maintained.

Cowen concluded by saying he will champion policy that allows farmers and food producers to focus on farming and reap the benefits of their labour.

European elections take place on 7 June 2024.