Sinn Féin is in favour of incentivising hemp production in Irish agriculture, the party’s agriculture spokesperson told the Irish Farmers Journal.
Matt Carthy TD described hemp as a crop which has “potential” in the Irish farm sector, but acknowledged “farmers are reluctant to enter the sector here because there isn’t a guaranteed market and there aren’t assurances that it’s going to be promoted”.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said he’d “like to see increased tillage, crops and vegetables” grown by farmers and that this would include hemp.
The point was listed as one of Sinn Féin’s proposals in a policy leaflet it shared with farmers at the National Ploughing Championships.
Similar to how farmers were incentivised to enter more “profitable” dairy farming, Carthy said other farm systems could offer the same viability.
He said that in order to ensure farmers move to other sectors, “we have to ensure that they’re also profitable”.
He went on to say profitability shouldn’t be a “dirty” word for Irish farmers and suggested they shouldn’t look at it as such.
On the potential for a profitable hemp sector, the Sinn Féin TD was critical of a Government “anomaly” where the hemp stem can be used for “building materials and things like that” but they cannot use the “head of the crop”.
“Under Irish law at the moment, in contravention to European law, Irish farmers can’t actually allow that to be used to process the type of medicinal products and others that there is a very real market for.
“So, if we want to look at areas like hemp, then we need to ensure that we’re actually allowing farmers to get the full volume of any crop that they’re growing,” he said.
Matt Carthy TD also called for a third pillar of funding under the CAP strategic plan, which he said should fund eco schemes.
“The first thing that I would hope a Sinn Féin government would do is set about engaging at an EU level to ensure that the next CAP budget does that. That we have a CAP that’s fit for purpose.
“The fact that the CAP budget, in real terms, was actually significantly cut at a time when farmers are being asked to do more was, to me, a fatal blow for the prospect of actually having a sea change in Irish agriculture.
“Because, in my view, we essentially need a third pillar as new funding in relation to the eco schemes.
"If we’re serious about climate action, if we’re serious about rural development and biodiversity restoration and if we’re serious about all the things that make up the rhetoric of the CAP, then we’re going to have to fund it,” he said.
On how Ireland’s agreed CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027 could be changed, the Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson said: “There’s going to be some openings in the next couple of years for revisiting and introducing perhaps some additional emergency funding.
“If we’re going to have a long-term vision for Irish agriculture, then we’re going to have to have a long-term plan to fund a CAP that works. That means increased funding and new funding.
"The work for 2027 has to start now, as well as using every opportunity to get additional funding from the current CAP.”