Minister Charlie McConalogue the last time he faced Cavan farmers in person, at Ballyjamesduff Mart.

Minister to be grilled on changes facing farmers

With agriculture facing unprecedented change this year, farmers will have the chance to put their concerns directly to Minister Charlie McConalogue at the forthcoming IFA AGM.

The IFA meeting is usually well attended, but next week’s Lavey Inn meeting will have extra pulling power as the agriculture minister has been confirmed as guest speaker.

“2023 is a year of massive change,” Cavan County Chairman Maurice Brady told The Anglo-Celt. “We have two CAPs coming in - the Common Agricultural Policy from 2023-27 is up and running, and then we have another ‘CAP’ in the Climate Action Plan and the nitrates programme. There’s massive change coming, and I thought it was a good opportunity for farmers to engage with the minister and put their point of view across.

“There’s so much up in the air, and so much change it’s unbelievable.”

He notes that even after the IFA’s “massive campaign” last year to get the sectoral emissions target down to 25% from a potential upper ceiling of 30%, but notes “it is still a very very high target”.

“We will be interested to hear his views on how those targets will be met,” said Mr Brady.

Mr Brady notes speculation about cull schemes and reduction schemes, and stresses the importance to receive clarity to enable farmers to plan.

“If the plan has to be met by 2030 and if there was to be some sort of reduction scheme or exit scheme or extensification, the Department would need to act fairly swiftly,” he said, noting that uncertainty could lead to farmers unnecessarily retain livestock in the expectation of such schemes.

“I think it’s incumbent on the minister to come forward with some outline of at least what his thinking is, or what if any scheme might be up for negotiation.”

Mr Brady also highlighted Cavan farmers’ track record of participating in agri-environmental schemes and repeats the IFA’s recent mantra that any farmer who has applied to the ACRES scheme must be accepted.

“ACRES was massively over subscribed. There was a budget for 30,000 farmers for 2023 and there were 46,000 applied - I’m very clear that anyone who wants to get into an environmental scheme has to get a payment in 2023 one way or another.

“It’s not a good look” he says of government rejecting applications from farmers who are putting their hands up to join the flagship environmental scheme in the midst of the climate emergency.

“I think the minister knows this,” he says of the optics. “We flagged it up 12 months ago what might happen, and he’s well aware of it, but it’s a matter of keeping the pressure on so that everybody does get onto it in some shape or form.”

From a dairy point of view Mr Brady anticipates the issue of rebanding to be raised with Minister McConalogue.

“There’s a reduction in the allowance for the derogation farmers going from 250-220kgs/ha possibly coming down the line.

“Again there’s a lot of change there, and at the moment we have a lot more questions than answers - we might get some answers next Tuesday.”