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Question: What would you change about Europe's agricultural policy?

Addressing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was a common answer among candidates.

In our audit of the Ireland South European election candidates, we asked each candidate to answer questions on nine of the most pressing issues facing Ireland and Europe in the coming years. 

What would you change about Europe’s agricultural policy?

Grace O’Sullivan

We need to reform CAP so that payments are rebalanced to benefit small and medium sized farms. The Green Party wants to link CAP payments to sustainable farming practices.

Sheila Nunan

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The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) must be progressive and focused on the future. It must promote sustainable land management and small-scale farming.

We support including sustainable production methods, better nutrition, targets for reduced food waste, better animal welfare, climate protection and the preservation of biodiversity in CAP. 

Breda Gardner

Keep the CAP as is, and do not reduce any further.

Much greater imagination, support and incentives for renewable energy projects on farms, e.g. for solar panels and anaerobic digesters.

Tighter meat regulations: I recently have heard a number of troubling stories about labelling of meat from outside the EU, and about infected meat which has entered the food chain.

Seán Kelly 

I will work to ensure that there is an adequate budget post 2020 which protects our farmers, is distributed fairly and targeted towards active farmers and ensure the distribution of supports to farmers over the lifetime of the CAP is both fair and sustainable.

I would also like to see the focus put on supporting family farms, and on attracting and retaining young people and women into the farming sector. Also I would like measures to ensure greater transparency and full accountability in the food chain.

Colleen Worthington 

Europe’s agricultural policy needs to serve both farmers and the planet. We must make it profitable for farmers to implement the best practices in sustainability and carbon sequestration.

Andrew Doyle

Source: Nick Bradshaw

I’m ambitious for our agri-food sector and think we have real potential to become the world’s highest quality food producing country, based on sustainability and family farming.

I support increasing our contribution to the EU budget, but only if it’s spent on our key priorities, which include CAP, agriculture and fisheries.  In fact, agriculture and fisheries play larger roles here than in another other EU member states.

Future CAP negotiations present new opportunities for us to rebalance the power in the food chain, supporting generational renewal, an emphasis on knowledge transfer, introducing new technologies and incentives for young farmers, as well as female farmers.

Post 2020, it’s essential that we have an adequate budget for the CAP which offers protection to our farmers, but is distributed fairly and targeted towards active farmers. There’s immense scope for Irish farming to develop and adopt new technologies, opening up new markets – I want to be at the centre of the plans for that.

Liam Minehan 

I think going forward the price of food has to become more expensive. It is completely unviable to expect agriculture to produce food at the level and quality it currently is. If we are going to farm we need to expect reasonable prices. We need to protect farm families rather than corporate selling. The only way to do that is to ensure a more equitable price. Now, 9% spent of a family’s budget is spent on food rather than the 30% that was spent years ago.

Mick Wallace

In terms of agriculture, we need an EU-wide Green New Deal programme that would bring governments to work collaboratively with farmers to reduce and eventually remove pollution from the sector, and foster a genuinely sustainable food system that is not based on endless growth targets, but is designed to ensure the most people possible have access to nutritious food that is produced in such a way that protects the possibility of there being a thriving farming sector well into the future.

It is clear that the globalised model that currently dominates, where GM soya is imported from Brazil and Argentina to feed Irish cows in order to make cheese that is sold in China – this only locks us in to climate breakdown. We are fueling deforestation in other parts of the world at the same time as contaminating animals with substandard feed, while traceable Irish grains sit in stores because they can’t compete with the the price of Brazilian GM crops.

CAP reforms should be used to support small farmers, and stop the erosion of family farms – at present we are watching the consolidation of farms all across Europe. In the 1970s the majority of Irish farms were less than 20 hectares, the average farm size is now over 32 hectares, at the same time Ireland has lost almost 140,000 farms.

We need to move away from monoculture industrial farms raising animals in feedlots with GM soya imported from halfway across the planet, and concentrate on helping smaller, more diverse farm setups raise animals and crops using local inputs, encourage short supply chains and strengthen local and regional markets that will build bonds between rural areas and cities and towns.

At the same time we desperately need to put an end to the dumping of artificially cheap produce in markets in the global south.

Deirdre Clune 

Try to give the best support we can to farmers to tackle climate change and protect biodiversity and to also provide more support to young farmers.

Diarmuid O’Flynn 

Again, so much. I’ve seen first-hand in the US the damage caused by centralisation of production, of processing and of retailing – rural America has been devastated. Upstate New York in the Catskill region, where I’ve spent many a happy day/week/month, used to be a live region of much agricultural production and diversity. Now? Much of it is a wilderness, gone back to nature.

I believe that is now the EU model, part of the neoliberal agenda, and over the last few decades we’ve seen the effect of that in Ireland; small farmers driven out, factory farming on the way in; small co-ops driven out, huge co-ops dominating the processing market – likewise in the beef and poultry sector; small retailers being shut down, mega-retailers on the rise. I would work to reverse all that.

Jan Van De Ven

Europe needs to financially assist the sectors negatively impacted by Brexit until the sector trade stabilizes and becomes sustainable.

Liadh Ní Riada

We would like to see income inequality in the sector tackled. 80% of CAP funding goes to 20% of the farmers. We want more supports for small and medium sized farmers that need the supplement to keep them in business and in turn to keep rural communities alive. We also want to see a more comprehensive reward system for the delivery of public goods. Farmers are custodians of our landscapes and they deserve fair remuneration for the work they do, such as protecting biodiversity.

Peter O’Loughlin

The CAP is a protectionist policy designed to protect the agricultural sectors of the major European nations. Our agricultural potential is a major threat. That’s why they pay us not to produce. That’s why they shut down the sugar industry. That’s why rural Ireland is dying. Change nothing. Get rid of it. We will always fail until we do so.

About the author:

Kathleen McNamee

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