Gap between aspiration and implementation undermining farming

THE Deputy President of ICMSA, John Comer, has said that suspension of the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS), has highlighted a fundamental contradiction between what he called the Government’s ‘media-focussed cheerleading’ for the farming and food sectors and the actual policy being implemented.

THE Deputy President of ICMSA, John Comer, has said that suspension of the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS), has highlighted a fundamental contradiction between what he called the Government’s ‘media-focussed cheerleading’ for the farming and food sectors and the actual policy being implemented.

Mr Comer said the policy ‘falls very far short of what is required’. He said the gap between aspiration and actual implementation had always been apparent but it was now growing and the credibility of Government targets and stated ambitions for the sector was being undermined.

“At this stage, farmers and the wider agri-sector might be forgiven for asking a very fundamental question: what exactly is the Minister’s policy regarding agricultural development? There’s a startling mismatch between the aspirations being articulated through the media and in official reports and the reality that us farmers are seeing on the ground,” he stated.

He continued, “This last week has seen two more policy developments that highlight the contradiction between media-focussed cheerleading and the actual policy being implemented. The summary suspension – effectively, the ending – of all grant schemes for on-farm development and improvement is a virtual dismantling of the policy aimed at dairy expansion.

“We also learned this week that the Stamp Duty Relief for Farm Consolidation will not be extended. Both of those measures directly work against the interests of our best dairy farmers in whom, we have been told repeatedly, the Government places such high hopes as part of the national economic recovery. Which is it to be? Are we to believe the press releases from conference after conference, in which speaker after speaker tells us to produce more and more food because the Government is really going to get behind farming? Or are we to believe the evidence of our own eyes and the facts being presented to us in the fashion they were this week?”

The Deputy President of ICMSA remarked that the minister’s own statement made reference to the fact that he was seeking approval for advance release of €600 million because the SFP is used to subsidise the day-to-day running costs of farms and was often greater than the income earned by the farm.

“It also references the burden of repayments. Can ICMSA ask – and not for the first time either – what the Minister’s policy on farm credit is? In the absence of any meaningful official policy, we’re trying to secure credit at competitive rates from overseas banks, and we’re finding that tough enough. The honeymoon is over and we require – and we’re sincerely asking here and now – for less windy rhetoric about how Irish farming will ‘Feed the World’ and a good deal more hard progressive policies that will be implemented without delay.

“We need the Minister to go at the issues that we all know about in a steady, one-by-one, incremental fashion and forget about vague aspirations or headline-grabbing exaggeration. The current review of expenditure will probably mean more cuts and the Minister and his team must rapidly set out a real and achievable plan for the sector that is based on hard factual analysis and can – and will – be implemented without delay,” concluded Mr Comer.