This year is showing just how farming fortunes can swing.
The first estimates of farm income for the year are showing a likely decline of about 25%, which will totally undo the increase of 2011.
Much of this reduction is weather related through increased feed, poor cattle thrive, lower milk output and reduced yields of crops and silage as well as lower silage quality. But there is also a significant cost push especially on the feed and energy sides.
Individually, farmers can do nothing about these factors but we are also facing, for the first time, uncertainty on two political fronts, Brussels and Dublin. Both are important: the groundwork is being prepared on a new framework for the CAP.
Despite three visits by Commissioner Ciolos to the country, we seem to have made little progress in getting real flexibility into the Commissioner's position on greening, payment flattening and reference years. In fact, we seem to have gone slightly backwards with the Commissioner's Ardee assertion that any coupling for sensitive suckler and sheep areas would be confined to 5%.
The case has been made as vociferously as possible -- it is now essentially up to Minister Simon Coveney to convince the Commissioner and his fellow Ministers that the Irish case is based not just on logic but on strong farmer feeling and national well being.
There is little doubt that a strong turnout next Tuesday in Dublin would send a clear message to Brussels.
But a clear message also needs to be sent to the Dublin Government to put steel into Minister Coveney's dealings with his cabinet colleagues and to draw real attention to the fact that disproportionately severe national cuts have affected farm incomes badly.
There are some indications that the message is getting through. The foundation of the Department's proposals to Brussels, detailed on the front page, are in the right direction.
The pre-Ploughing announcement of the re-opening of the environmental AEOS scheme was welcome even if modest at a maximum payout of €4,000 per individual. The continuation of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme at a sensible level is equally important.
This scheme, more than any other, fundamentally underpins the genetic development of the beef suckler herd.
There is little incentive for the general weanling seller to record and transmit accurate animal event data but it is of huge benefit to the overall industry.
The safeguarding of this innovative, nationally-financed scheme has to be a priority. See below.
Farmers have very few ways of making their collective voice effectively heard.
Next Tuesday's demonstration, the first in four years, should send a clear message of real concern: concern for the future income prospects under the new Single Farm Payment system; concern at the disproportionate share taken by agriculture in domestic budgetary action and concern at the lack of action in developing some kind of sensible operating basis for farmers and their co-ops in dealing with supermarkets.
Nobody wants or expects a violent demonstration but it is important that a clear message is sent. The larger the turnout next Tuesday, the clearer the message, the more strength farmer negotiators have and the more strength the Minister will be able to exert.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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