Martin Kenny TD, Sinn Féin’s representative on the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, was part of a delegation, this week, which travelled to Paris to consult on the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) which will be in force from 2020.
Martin Kenny said that the discussions were a valuable attempt to ensure that the new arrangement would take Ireland’s unique situation into account, particularly after Brexit.
He said: “The visit was valuable, in that we could put forward Ireland’s case in the EU. The main purpose was to sign a joint declaration between Ireland and France, Italy and Poland on shared principles, relating to CAP.
“Other countries, including Spain , Portugal, the Czech Republic and other Eastern European states are expected to sign up to the broad principles soon. “The main thrust of the declaration is that there would be no reduction in the budget and that support for farmers will remain in place and to generate income stabilisation tools as a protection against price volatility.
“Basic principles included working towards greater recognition of the social value of maintaining traditional agricultural methods in the EU. While the principles were broad, it meant that agreement could be reached and it was noted that this was the first step in agreed support in a number of countries on CAP reform.”
“It was a learning experience in that the delegation from the Dáil met with the French agriculture advisory service, similar to Teagasc, and discussed production methods and difficulties arising from Brexit, particularly for the Irish agri-food sector.
“It was interesting to note that French farmers are most particularly concerned with conditions arising from climate change and the impact of severe weather events on crops and income and they are seeking an EU-wide insurance scheme to alleviate this problem.
“The Irish delegation was dubious of an insurance scheme as insurance in Ireland has been so expensive and badly controlled.
“The delegation also met with representatives of French farming organisations to discuss Brexit and CAP reform. Protection against price volatility was their main concern along with basic payments for farmers.
“It was interesting to note that the price farmers receive for a litre of fresh milk in France was much the same as the Irish price. The price of beef cattle is similar per kilo to Irish beef, but the quality of the grass-fed produce in Ireland is far superior to the French grain-fed product.
“ I came away with the knowledge that there is now a strong commitment from the agriculture sector across Europe to maintaining the CAP budget and protecting farm incomes,” Deputy Kenny said.