Farmers feel ‘the whole world is against them’, Fianna Fáil TD says

Party says plans to support beef and dairy sectors would not harm potential coalition with Greens

Farmers feel the whole world is against them, Fianna Fáil’s food and horticulture spokesman said.

Speaking as as the party launched its agriculture proposals, Jackie Cahill said the sector needs support given challenges including the price farmers receive for meat from processors, which resulted in widespread protests last year.

Fianna Fáil’s proposals include the creation of a national Food Ombudsman’s office to protect food producers and a €200 suckler cow payment for the first 20 animals in a herd that are raised for beef.

Farm organisations have repeatedly called for such a payment and Mr Cahill said “farmers are extremely worried about the future and feel the whole world is against them” following crises in recent times over fodder, tillage and beef.


With political parties courting the significant farm vote in the election, Fianna Fáil said its aim was to support 137,500 farm families. Agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue said “Irish beef farmers have had to endure some of the worst months” in recent times.

The Donegal TD insisted that the party’s agriculture proposals would not be a stumbling block to a potential coalition with the Greens because Fianna Fáil is “serious about climate change and keeping food production sustainable”.

Smaller herd

During an RTÉ leaders' debate on Monday, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said, if his party was in government, there would be a smaller suckler herd, fewer cows raised for beef and a less intensive farming model. He said he favoured paying farmers for every acre of native forestry they establish.

Agriculture accounts for about one third of the State’s carbon emissions but Mr McConalogue said there is a “recognition at national level as to how carbon efficient” Irish farm production is.

Mr Cahill said the Green Party understood that there should be “European farmers to feed European consumers” as he criticised the Mercosur trade deal with South America, which includes the import of 100,000 tonnes of beef into the EU.

“I think the Greens will understand the stupidity of that kind of policy,” Mr Cahill added.

The suckler cow payment scheme would cost about €46 million while the National Food Ombudsman’s office to “ensure equity and fairness in the food chain” is priced at €2.3 million.


Mr McConalogue said the suckler herd “is a mainstay of the beef sector and needs to be supported”.

“Farmers are producing massive turnover within their local economies without making a margin themselves,” he said. “They need to be supported or there will either be land abandonment or people moving into more intensive types of farming whereas suckler farming tends to be less intensive and can be done in a way that contributes to bio diversity and climate change objectives.”

Mr Cahill warned that “unless we provide some support to our suckler herd then it will continue to drop”.

Fianna Fáil also says it wants to create a sustainable forestry sector by providing incentives to plant native trees. Forests cover just 10.85 per cent of the country’s land area, compared to a 38 per cent EU average, it said.

Fianna Fáil said it will also work to get EU recognition of the estimated 660,000km of hedgerows in Ireland as a carbon sink. It will also defend the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and restrict individual payments to €60,000 to “safeguard the family model of farming”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times