As he prepares to leave office, the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed reflects with Brian Moore about his tenure
CAP, climate and Brexit. These must be the top priorities for whoever takes over the top job at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, current Minister Michael Creed TD said.
‘The biggest challenge facing any new Agriculture Minister will be securing an adequate budget for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and this is an issue right across government as the funding for the EU is a major priority.
‘We pay more money into Europe than we take out and this is a reflection on the strength of economy now, but we get the overwhelming majority of our receipts through the CAP so it is vitally important to our rural economy and to farmers’ incomes that we have a properly-funded CAP.’
The Minister also said that the CAP is vitally important for Ireland to support climate change policy. ‘Our whole capacity to meet the climate change agenda is also linked with a properly-funded CAP,’ Minister Creed said.
‘We are looking to the next CAP to enable us to support, through Pillar 2 initiatives, the climate measures we need across all farming sectors to meet the challenges we have on climate issues.’
Speaking to The Southern Star, as the formation of the next government is still far from clear, Minister Creed said, while faced with many challenges during his time as Agriculture and Fisheries Minister his department had achieved a number of significant policies that would have a positive effect on the farming and fishing industry.
‘The opening of the Chinese market was a really significant endeavour by the government over a protracted period of time,’ Minister Creed said.
‘Although, if you look at the where we are presently with the difficulties in the beef sector, the coronavirus and the Chinese market, it is certainly not as successful as we would have wished at this time but it is still a huge market for us.
‘For me, the highlight in connection with the fisheries sector was my decision to preserve the inshore waters for smaller boats, a very significant policy step; we have put a support structure in place for inshore fishermen now to create brand awareness and to work with them to promote their produce from this sector.
‘There is real potential in that. And, we have invested an awful lot in working with the fishing industry, but there is a real challenge for us as the Brexit negotiations continue.’
However, Minister Creed acknowledged that during his time in office there have been challenges that have yet to be overcome: ‘The beef industry issue and incomes for farmers in this sector have been very challenging,’ Minister Creed said.
‘Add to this, it was a low moment to see how the farming voice has fractured in all different directions now, with pop-up organisations and the like. I know many do not agree with me, but I believe this hasn’t served the farming lobby very well.
‘This is a real and ongoing challenge, and will be waiting for the next Minister for Agriculture whenever he or she takes office.’
New markets for Ireland’s food industry is also a focus that the next government must address.
‘When the EU has negotiated new trade agreements with, for example, Canada, Mexico and Japan, the Irish food industry was first to explore new markets. And this brings the value of our EU membership in to clear focus as we could never have accessed these markets without the size of the EU behind us.
‘The UK market, in a free trade agreement between the UK and EU will always be an important market for us,’ Minister Creed said. ‘But we have to be aware, as an exporting, agri-food nation, that every market we can pursue has potential.’
Minister Creed also cited the importance of live animal exports: ‘This is a hugely-important market and the continued operation and access to our live export markets depends wholly on high welfare standards, and we have to ensure that these standards from the farmers right the way through marts, exporters, to shipping companies to third country authorities, we need to make sure that we maintain the highest standards of welfare and compliance with regulations.
‘This is the only way we can ensure that this industry will continue.’
As the Minister comes to the end of his period at the forefront of shaping Irish agriculture policy, what are the major threats to farming and fishing facing rural Ireland and what advice would he have for the next Minister for Agriculture?
‘CAP and climate and of course Brexit must be a major focus,’ Minister Creed said.
‘These are hugely significant issues and, if the next Minister manages over the next five years to navigate these challenges, he or she will have done a very good job.’
This article was taken from our popular Spring/Summer Farming magazine which is available to read in full here.