PRESIDENT of the ICMSA John Comer has insisted that the farmer vote cannot ‘be taken for granted’ in next week’s general election and that systemic problems in farming and rural decline must be confronted
The ICMSA leader said that his organisation is determined to put the present situation of Irish farming ‘front and centre’ of the election debate and he added that no party or parties should think that the farm vote can be taken for granted. Mr Comer said that in several areas, most particularly our critical dairy sector, new responses to systematic problems were required: ‘Irish milk suppliers are now facing into 2016 and an upcoming peak production period where they continue to receive a price for their milk that is less than it cost to produce. It is elusional for anyone to think that we can go on like this approaching the first anniversary of quota abolition and with milk suppliers effectively producing milk for nothing.’
The ICMSA president said his association was now estimating that income to milk suppliers would fall by around €800 million in the two years following 2014 resulting in a knock-on loss to the wider rural economy of conservatively €1.36 billion. Mr Comer said while no-one doubted the fundamental nature of the supply-demand problem, that must not mean that no action is taken and he repeated his call for Ireland to press for the immediate introduction of a meaningful 28 cents per litre intervention price and to argue for the speedy re-opening of the Russian market.
‘We’d like to see the commitment given in November 2015 at the Beef Forum to review the Price Grid actually delivered upon.
The ICMSA president said his association had identified 16 farming and rural-related issues on which candidates seeking farm votes should be able to comment and formulate opinions. Mr Comer said that farmers must support candidates who, in turn, will support the farming community in the struggle to win fair prices from gigantic food retail corporations.
‘ICMSA wants to see agricultural schemes fully financed and made relevant and accessible, as well as a reversal of the very severe cuts made that had undermined several schemes.
On broader rural-related issues, Mr Comer said that candidates and parties would be expected to come forward with serious and imaginative proposals to rehabilitate rural Ireland and, specifically, our towns and villages which had been allowed to deteriorate in terms of services and commercial self-sustainability. ICMSA was also convinced, he noted, that what he called the ‘withdrawal of the state from rural Ireland’ must be stopped and reversed if the country and all its inhabitants was to go forward realising its potential. ‘We are citizens too and we want – and insist – upon receiving the same respect and commitment from our State as our suburban and urban counterparts”, he concluded.