“As the non-effects, of the non-measure, that was Budget 2019 ‘sink in’, it is surely time for us to draw certain conclusions about where farm families and the wider agri-food sector stands in the Government’s list of priorities,” Pat McCormack, President ICMSA
An analysis of where farmers stand on the Government's list of priorities is greatly aided by a cool and rational examination of what the Government did, or rather did not do, for farmers in the most recent budget. Pat McCormack, President of the ICMSA explained: “It is shockingly obvious that the current Government simply does not understand the scale of the challenges being faced by farm families. Neither in terms of the 50% fall in income predicted for this current year, or the transformational challenges that could follow Brexit next March,” he added: “There haven’t been any signs of appreciation about the scale of the problems that are not just looming on some distant horizon, but are in the here and now, and are already biting into our unique family farm system.”
The ICMSA President claims, that in the absence of any kind of coherent response from Government to the crisis developing, farm families can only conclude that the Government has decided that it doesn’t want to support them. The farm organisation concludes that the agenda now seems to be about enhancing the position of big businesses over family farms.
Mr Mccormack expressed his concern further, stating: “I am genuinely reluctant to come to this conclusion, but it is the only logical one to arrive at, based on Budget 2019, as set out by the Minister for Finance. Introducing new minor schemes; with more conditions and more inspections, along with tweaks to existing schemes, won’t solve the massive underlying problems. And it is simply ‘throwing shapes’ rather than providing real solutions for the farming community. A perfect example of what I mean is exampled by the litany of inaction in dealing with the ‘Gorilla in The Room’ that is farm income volatility.”
It is claimed by the ICMSA that the single biggest issue facing family farms today is income volatility. They explained that this volatility in income has farming families trapped in an utterly destructive ‘boom and bust cycle’, that can see their annual incomes go from relatively sustainable to absolute unsustainable in the space of a single year.
2018 has already put farm families to the test, with Teagasc already predicting that average farm incomes will fall by 50% this year.
“One would now have to question, at this stage, the level of priority that agriculture is getting around the Cabinet table, and this should be a matter of concern for everyone in rural Ireland,” explained McCormack.
As the economy in general improves, and incomes rise across the board, farmers are set to face a phenomenal income collapse. Farmers are subjected to the massive market and income volatility that is, often, caused by margin manipulation by more powerful links in the food supply chain. Imagine any scenario where any other group in Ireland was facing a 50% drop in income. Would that financial disaster be completely ignored by Government? That is precisely the situation in which farm families in Roscommon, Longford, Leitrim, and all over Ireland find themselves in this year. The result of same is that co-operatives, vets, agricultural suppliers, mechanics, local shops, and the like are left with bills going unpaid. The fodder crisis which shocked the agricultural community last year has meant many bills have already carried over and will continue to do so for the next number of years unless the Government provide drastic support for farmers and their families.
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