CAP support vital to UK farmers

IT is an ‘absolute necessity’ to maintain a realistic support budget for agriculture in the years ahead, said Matt Dempsey, opening the British Society of Animal Science’s (BSAS) annual conference in Belfast.

Supported by the Agricultural Research Forum, the conference kicked off on Monday with a look at the upcoming CAP review.

In addition to arguments over support, Mr Dempsey, editor of the Irish Farmers Journal, said there would be tremendous pressure from various groups to shift the share out of whatever budget was available post 2012 from West Europe to the east.

“This process may be made a little easier by the fact the current Farm Commissioner hails from Romania,” he said.

“The third issue that must be addressed over the coming months is deciding which format will be followed when it comes to allocating single farm payments within the various member states and the regions thereof.

Won’t wash

“The idea of a flat rate area-based payment may well work in countries such as England, where the drivers are already in place to make this a reality before 2012, but this approach won’t wash with farmers in Ireland and possibly other regions of the EU.”

While reviewing the outworkings of the CAP over the past 40 years, Mr Dempsey stressed the impact cheap cereals are continuing to have on the structure of the livestock industry.

“This approach has boosted broiler and pig production,” he said. “However, we have now arrived at a situation where grain-based milk production is now competitive with dairy farming in our traditional grassland areas.

“If this process is allowed to continue the economic and social consequences for communities in regions where arable production is not an option could be extremely detrimental. It is therefore imperative farming in our traditional grassland areas is protected by means of realistic and ongoing support payments.”

Mr Dempsey went on to highlight the muddle he believed the EU had gotten itself into on the issue of GM.

“Europe’s livestock farmers are being denied access to the latest GM feeds. Meanwhile, no restrictions at all are placed on Brazilian chicken imports, produced from broilers fed the latest varieties of GM maize and soya.” he said.

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