STANDING up for the viability of farming was at the core of the IFA’s nationwide ‘Day of Action’ that saw large numbers protest in Skibbereen and Bandon.
They were two of 30 towns around the country chosen for the protests as the organisation wanted to highlight how, without the correct policies, the farming sector will suffer, but there will also be a knock-on impact for towns.
They also wanted to highlight how some farmers are being hit with cuts under Cap, while the Climate Bill could result in substantial additional regulation and costs being imposed on the same group.
Donal O’Donovan, chair of West Cork IFA, said he was pleased with the turnout and the reaction they got last Friday.
He said an average farmer who currently gets €10,000 in payments, could see that cut back to €7,000. And while he said their members embrace changes to meet climate targets, it could not be at their own cost.
‘Cap negotiations resume at the end of June, and we’re calling on our minister to stand firm and defend the EU Council position on 75% internal convergence. This is our roadmap for the next 10 years and people are very concerned at the moment.’
Tim Creedon from Macroom, president of West Cork IFA, led the Skibbereen protest. He said the numbers involved in farming were getting smaller all the time, and action needed to be taken.
Courtmacsherry farmer Harold Kingston and IFA Munster regional chair addressed the crowd in Bandon and said the crux of the protest was that farmers had to be recognised for what they were producing.
And he said they weren’t just highlighting their concerns for farming jobs, either.
‘There are businesses who need us producing something in order for them to have an income,’ he pointed out.
IFA members wanted to get the message home that the towns where they demonstrated will no longer be viable because the agri sector won’t exist to keep them afloat.
The farming and food sector employs 300,000 people across the country, and contributed €13bn in exports in 2020.
Outside of Dublin and the mid-east region, the sector provides between 10% and 14% of employment. The agri-food sector makes a significant contribution to employment in rural and coastal areas in particular.
The message they delivered loud and clear is that the EU and the government need to do more to stand up for the sector.
IFA president Tim Cullinan has also strongly criticised the lack of scrutiny of the Climate Action Bill and has accused Minister Eamon Ryan of attempting to ram through the legislation without due process.
‘There are over 290 amendments put down on the Bill. These have been ignored by the Minister,’ he said.
‘The failure to properly discuss the issues debases democracy. We want government TDs to make their voice heard before it’s too late,’ he said.
IFA members also protested at the Convention Centre in Dublin on Wednesday (June 16) against the passage of the Climate Action Bill. The Dáil is currently sitting at the centre.
Meanwhile, Cork South West FF TD Christopher O’Sullivan said he will meet with Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue to deliver the concerns of farmers.
‘The farmers I met at the protests are for climate action, and they’re very willing to take part in environmental schemes,’ he said.
‘They have a few simple asks that they want government to listen to,’ Deputy O’Sullivan added.
‘Importantly, they can’t be expected to do more for less money.
‘Every sector needs to do its part to protect the environment, but we can’t disadvantage the farming sector in the process.’
Deputy O’Sullivan said he also hopes to discuss potential compensation and incentive schemes with Minister McConalogue. ‘I believe our farmers should be compensated and aided with the cost of reform and I look forward to bringing their points back to the Minister for Agriculture,’ Deputy O’Sullivan said.
‘Every town in West Cork depends on farming. I firmly believe we can strike a balance between making farming more viable for more people, while protecting biodiversity and the environment.’