Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has welcomed strong commitments on support for the farming and agrifood sector from An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin.
During Parliamentary Questions in the Dáil on Wednesday, Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “The farming community wants a clear message that the national co-financing commitments that were made will be honoured over the next number of years and that the €1.5 billion from the carbon tax fund will be allocated to the farming sector.
“There is often a lazy and ill-informed narrative with regard to farming and climate change. Farmers have adapted and modernised their systems. Our food production systems are sustainable and in the climate debate, while we all know there must be improvements from every sector in that regard, we must ensure that sustainable food production systems in Europe are not displaced by food being imported from areas in South America and elsewhere where forests are being felled to make land arable.”
The Cavan Monaghan TD continued: “The Common Agricultural Policy was established to ensure a secure supply of safe food for the citizens of Europe. It provides income support to farmers but it also ensures that there is continuity of sustainable production of food, which is very important, and plays a key role in the environment and in ensuring we have people living in rural Ireland. Our commitment must be absolute to ensuring that additional financial support is provided through national co-financing, alongside CAP-supported schemes. We all know that if we are to have a vibrant rural Ireland, our farming and agrifood sectors must be the lead economic drivers in that regard.”
In response, An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin stated: “Fianna Fáil’s role in the Common Agricultural Policy and its evolution, going back to the days of Commissioner Ray MacSharry, has been exemplary in terms of fairness, farm families and ensuring the sustainability of the Common Agricultural Policy within the European Union framework throughout this decade.
“Deputy Brendan Smith, when he was Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, did an enormous amount of work, particularly in terms of sustainable food production. It has been an honourable tradition which the current Minister, Deputy McConalogue, is continuing in respect of the current negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy. There has always been a need for flexibilities on the operation of CAP but they have been reducing over the years.”
An Taoiseach added that commitments about national co-financing will be followed through on, stating: “Deputy Brendan Smith’s point about national co-financing will pertain and the commitments made will be followed through on. Many parties in this House objected to and opposed the €1.5 billion carbon fund but it gives us the resources to help and support farmers in respect of a range of environmental schemes, separate to the environmental schemes that are being provided under the aegis of the Common Agricultural Policy.
“I accept Deputy Smith’s point that Irish farming has been one of the more progressive food production systems in reducing emissions, when compared to many other food production systems across Europe and the world. Our dairy and beef industries are among the top performers in terms of their capacity to reduce emissions.
“That said, the challenges of climate change mean we have to do more. We want to work with and support the industry to enable that to happen. The carbon fund gives us room to allocate additional funding in that regard, as do the national co-financing mechanisms. We will continue to engage with the farming pillar through the social dialogue mechanism which we have re-established, and that is welcome.”
An Taoiseach concluded: “I intend that to be a consistent part of our engagement with the industry and sector to ensure we can progress employment and maintain this vital industry across Ireland and rural Ireland, in particular. It is vital to many towns and communities because of the employment it provides. We want to sustain that employment and support farming in making the advances it continues to make in terms of carbon and production efficiency and in providing employment.”