Independent MEP Marian Harkin has described criticism by the IFA of her attitude to Pillar 2 of the Common Agriculture Policy as a total misrepresentation and an attempt to deflect the attention of farmers from the fact that, as of now, there is a need to focus on Pillar 1 for which there are tangible proposals rather than on Pillar 2 for which we are awaiting commitments from the Minister as to levels of co-financing and the detail of proposed schemes.
In a strong retort to a statement issued by IFA Connacht Vice President Padraig Divilly, she said that at the many meetings she had held with IFA officers, and at public meetings she had organised throughout the North & West constituency, she had emphasised the great importance of Pillar 2 but had warned that the huge cuts to Pillar 2 schemes over the last few years had left many farmers struggling badly and that the immediate focus needed to be on Pillar 1 and the Single Farm Payment.
She said: “What farmers do not need at this critical time is an attempt to confuse issues and one can only conjecture as to why the IFA wishes to deflect attention away from the need to obtain a Single Farm Payment agreement which has fairness at its core.
“I would welcome an open public debate on the reform of the CAP with IFA Vice President Padraig Divilly and would remind him that in his own county of Galway the average per hectare payment is €217.48 while 11 counties have per hectare payments above €300. Indeed Co Galway is sixth from the bottom in per hectare payments. This is the immediate issue which should concern the IFA.
"I have over the years strongly defended Pillar 2 payments in particular when the REPS’ payments were cut by this, and the previous government, and indeed right now I have an official complaint with the EU Ombudsman regarding the change in disadvantaged area payments. I want to see strong proposals under Pillar 2 which would, for instance, indicate concern for disadvantaged areas; for an effective REPS scheme and a suckler cow scheme which would ensure an expansion of the output of the vital quality raw material for our beef export business. Indeed one of my proposals for coupling payments up to 15% has been accepted by the Agriculture Committee in the Parliament and this could also prove vital for the suckler and sheep sectors.
“I am surprised that the IFA should seek to criticise me as one of the very few politicians who have engaged publicly and provided platforms to debate the vitally important issue of CAP reform. If they have a criticism to make, let it be on the basis of fact and not an attempt to mislead their own membership and the general public.
“Finally I urge the IFA to take note of what Matt Dempsey, Editor of the Irish Farmers Journal in his final editorial this week said ‘The Minister has spelled out his priorities for his Brussels discussions but the home strategy is also critical and we should be told at this stage what it is before the sector tears itself apart’, Marian Harkin MEP concluded.