Farmers and government
The talking with Government may have been pleasant and civilised but it hasn't really worked. The slurry and fertilizer extensions, while welcome, are cost and hassle free.
After a year saved for tillage farmers from real calamity by a fine week in early September, farmers were inevitably going to start doing the sums. The dependence on direct payments, introduced it must be repeated to compensate for swinging cuts in guaranteed prices and tough environmental regulations, is as high as ever. For those in receipt of a significant Single Farm Payment, the average is approximately €10,000. Those without a significant Single Farm Payment are mainly those in REPS and the Disadvantaged Area Schemes. It is simply a fact of life that the Single Farm Payment is fully funded by Brussels whereas REPS and Disadvantaged Area Payments have a large national element. It is a sign of Irish Exchequer weakness and a Ministerial attitude that seems to border on indifference that it is those with the lowest Single Farm Payment and the greatest need that have seen their REPS payments converted into a hugely reduced, and in many cases, an irrelevant AEOS scheme while at the same time their Disadvantaged Area Payments have been dramatically reduced.
The truth of these feelings are very clear from the Government's own figures for the spending by individual Departments where the cuts in agricultural schemes have been far greater than the reductions across other Departments. These may win brownie points but Minister Coveney needs to take heed of on the ground realities. Particularly in a year when incomes from every enterprise are going to be significantly reduced and on many farms, fodder and cashflow difficulties are acute.
The other obvious area where nothing has been done is in relation to farmers' dealings with supermarkets. We seem to forget that the Groceries Order and its ban on below cost selling was removed, but nothing, despite all the promises, has been put in its place. Tesco still refuses to break out the margins in its Irish division, Dunnes simply doesn't publish accounts and yet, despite the grossly unequal bargaining power in the chain, nothing has been done. This is firmly in Minister Bruton's court but one has to ask what pressure is Minister Simon Coveney bringing to bear to get some movement.
Meanwhile, the CAP budget is coming under discernible pressure just as Simon Coveney prepares to take over the chair as president of the agricultural council.
It may seem a diffuse agenda for a day of action by farmers but the individual points are not just clear, they are critically important to the industry. Normally these should be solved by sensible, across-the-table negotiations with Government but if this avenue does not work, then farmers have few other options. Disruptive protests would be counter productive in present national circumstances.
Meanwhile, the latest analysis on the Croke Park deal for the public sector shows gross savings of 3% in total payroll costs; clearly better than nothing, especially when it is taken into account that practically all public sector salaries increased by an increment of 3% to 4% as part of the general conditions of service. These general conditions have not been touched.
While the 3% reduction has been achieved, it's instructive to compare that with the 34% reduction in the Irish government's contribution to the general run of farm schemes, most of which are part-financed by the EU.
As preparations begin for a 'national day of action' to get underway, the 3% versus 34% reductions should be kept in mind.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.