WATCH - ‘Stand Up for Farming’: Westmeath IFA make presence felt in town centre

Westmeath farmers gathered at Grange on the western side of Mullingar this morning before driving through the town centre as far as the Dublin Bridge, as part of the IFA’s national protest, ‘Stand Up for Farming’.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner, the county chairperson, , Bernie McCarthy, said: “What is coming down the tracks could shut down farming as we know it.”

Ms McCarthy led the convoy of tractors and SUVs through the town, mixing with the traffic on what is normally one of the busiest days on the streets.

Before setting off, she said: “The approach to CAP reform by the EU is one thing and then we have the government’s Climate Change Bill.”

She said some farmers are being hit with massive cuts under the CAP – but on top of that the Climate Bill will likely result in substantial additional regulation and costs for farmers.

As farmers brace themselves for the effect they fear, there is concern over how they will find a way to continue.

“Don’t get us wrong: farmers do support climate action – but we can’t be expected to achieve all these changes with less money,” Ms McCarthy said.

“For the last seven years, year on year, food prices have fallen – but the opposite is true of the cost of production. The price of producing this top-quality, sustainable food has risen in each of those years.”

Ms McCarthy described farming as the backbone of rural Ireland: “The farming and food sector employs 30,000 people, and outside of Dublin and the mid-east, it provides somewhere between 10 per cent and 14 percent of all jobs,” she said.

She said that in financial terms, €13bn of Ireland’s exports last year were from the sector. At the same time, CAP payments to Irish farmers represent an annual shot in the arm of €1.8bn for rural Ireland, she added.

“The EU and the current government needs to do more to stand up for the sector, and we in IFA also say that the government needs to follow through on the commitment to provide €1.5bn from the carbon tax for agri-environmental measures.”