Ireland South MEP Billy Kelleher has pointed to the farming lobby as being the most effective group at understanding and influencing EU legislation.

Farming organisations are clued into the fact that most of the legislation affecting those they represent – farmers – comes from Brussels, rather than national parliaments, Kelleher said when speaking to journalists on Friday.

“The one that is very important from the point of view of agriculture is that most of the farm lobby groups across Europe, not just in Ireland, but across Europe, understand that the vast majority of legislation that impacts on them originates in Europe,” the Fianna Fáil MEP commented.

“So, you have a lot of farm lobbies quite tuned into that. In fact, they are the most effective. Others are beginning to understand that European legislation is predominantly the legislation of governments [and that applies to] most industrial aspects across Europe.”

This focus on EU affairs puts farmers’ representative groups “quite ahead of the game” in having influence on legislation, according to Kelleher.

His comments come after 18 months of new Green Deal environmental proposals from Brussels, including the nature restoration law, the sustainable use of pesticides regulation, a soil monitoring directive and a revamp of the industrial emissions directive.

Environment to the fore

The MEP singled out the nature restoration law, which is expected to be formally adopted before the end of the year, as the biggest development on the way to Irish farmers from the European Parliament in his term.

Kelleher maintains that the agri-environmental focus of the EU is here to stay, but the Cork man insisted that sustainable farming need not lead to the “tarnishing” of any sectors of the economy.

“The environmental agricultural agenda - and sometimes they clash - is not going away,” he continued.

“There will be a continual debate over the next number of years about how we sustainably produce food at a reasonable price to the consumer and, at the same time, reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment and they don’t always see eye to eye.”

Moving to the right

Kelleher also stated that he anticipates a move away from the centre in the European Parliament elections next year, driven by the impacts of cost of living, environmental issues and migration challenges on voters.

“In my view, there is going to be a move to the right across Europe and the centre is under pressure, significant pressure,” he said.

“While there was a reversal of that trend in Poland, predominantly all the polls are showing there will be a lurch to the right.”