23 May 2022

Farmers in Longford protest over CAP and Climate Bill

IFA protest

Gerry Bourke from Clondra with Thomas and Arron Gray from Ballinamuck and Ryan McHugh from Newtownforbes.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue has been warned not to return from Brussels this week with the “tail between his legs” in the wake of an IFA led protest in Longford town last Friday.

The cautionary sounding was made by local IFA chairman Gavin White after scores of tractors descended on the county town to highlight the importance of farming and agri-food to the rural economy.

Mr White, a suckler cow and sheep farmer himself, said the protest was aimed at focusing political minds ahead of potentially crucial decisions for the sector both domestically and at EU level.

“It certainly got the message across and showed the power of rural Ireland to local TDs and senators,” he said.

“It also put the pressure on the Minister for Agriculture who is going to Brussels this week to not come back with the tail between his legs with a result that is bad for the rural economy.”

A large slice of those concerns centre on the current take being adopted by EU chiefs on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform.

Negotiations to set the rules on how the EU will dole out €387 billion in CAP farming subsidies and rural development funds over the next seven years broke up without agreement last month.

Talks designed to broker a lasting resolution have lingered on for the past three years with efforts to align subsidies alongside strict climate goals appearing to stall.

Mr White said the future of the industry hinges on what path EU leaders agree to endorse with CAP.

“Farmers need to keep their CAP payments, it was one of the points we got across,” he said, while turning his focus to the introduction of the new Climate Action Bill.

“A lot of the blame on carbon emissions is put on the farmer which is not entirely fair,” he said.

“The methane that comes from cows isn't the same as that which comes from diesel cars and that's something which needs to be put out there (in public).”

The Climate Action Bill, which is currently going through the Dáil, commits the State to a halving of carbon emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050 in law and proposes five-year carbon budgets set by Government.

In addition to Longford, farmers in each of the 29 county executives held similar rallies last Friday in what was one of the largest coordinated protests since the onset of the Covid pandemic.

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