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3 November 2013 Edition

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Western Farming Forum’s first meeting in Mayo

Mayo Farming Forum will meet in the Gateway Hotel, Swinford, on Wednesday 20 November at 8pm. All supporters are invited to attend

• Martina Anderson MEP, Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris TD and South Ireland EU candidate Liadh Ní Riada at the Ploughing Championships

‘The consistent growth of our party membership means we need to put rural development and agriculture front and centre in all we do’ – Rose Conway-Walsh

THE FIRST Sinn Féin ‘Western Farming Forum’ held in Claremorris, County Mayo, in September attracted people from Mayo, Roscommon, Galway and Donegal.

Organised by Councillors Rose Conway-Walsh, Gerry Murray, Dermot Connolly and Mick Mulligan with EU candidate Matt Carthy, it was hosted by Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris TD.

In-depth discussions were held on the Common Agriculture Policy, Single Farm Payment and the bureaucracy faced by people dealing with Farm Assist, Rural Development and other aspects of farming.

Opening the forum, at the McWilliam Park Hotel, Councillor Conway-Walsh said:

“The consistent growth of our party membership in this part of the country in recent years means we need to put rural development and agriculture front and centre in all we do. To achieve our political objectives of Irish unity and a truly socialist republic we must work to invigorate rural Ireland and to do this we need a vibrant farming industry.

pg 31 2“The aim of the forum is to create a space to bring farming members from along the west coast together to examine the challenges and opportunities facing farm families in the region. As members of a party that has equality and fairness at its core, we must continue to address the vast inequalities within the farming industry. In order to truly represent our farming communities we need to be knowledgeable and up to speed on all farming issues and all of our policies must be rural-proofed.

“We cannot depend on Fine Gael/Labour or Fianna Fáil to protect farm families. We only have to look at how Fianna Fáil closed down REPS 4 with just 24 hours’ notice and how they slashed Farm Assist from €204 to €188. This weekly income support for farm families has continued to be drastically reduced under this government.

“The unpredictability of schemes such as the Suckler Cow Scheme, payments of which can rise and fall and the reductions in Disadvantaged Area Payment threaten the very survival of farming.

“So far, we have no scheme to replace the ending of AEOS at the end of 2013 and there is currently nothing to replace REPS4 for farmers coming out of REPS3. Only 6,000 of the 11,000 applying to enter AEOS in 2013 were accepted.

“We now have an opportunity to right some of the wrongs of the past by securing a fairer distribution of single farm payment. EU Commissioner Ciolos recognised this inequity in payments where large rancher-type farms received huge payments while farms in disadvantaged areas fighting against soil and climate restraints received relatively little. This proposal has been opposed by Agriculture Minister Coveney and the main farming bodies.”

North Kerry TD and Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris also spoke to the forum, saying:

“Sinn Féin is disappointed over the outcome of negotiations on a new farm payment scheme. We had argued for a cap of €100,000 to be reduced to €50,000 over four years.

“We also proposed a radical redistribution of payments from higher to lower recipients to increase the viability of lower income farm households. There can be no defence of a scheme under which less than 2% of recipients at the top receive more in total than the amount received by the bottom 40% combined.

“Much of the defence of the current SFP was based on the claim that it rewards more ‘productive’ farmers. In fact, statistics on stocking density proves that there is little evidence to support the claim.”

“Farmers with an average payment of €282 per hectare in 2010 had an average stocking density of 1.47.  That compared to a stocking density of 1.92 for those on average payments of €1,180 per ha. A stocking density which is only 0.45 higher could hardly justify a disparity of nearly €900 per hectare. It certainly cannot be justified under any claim of higher productivity.”

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Gerry Adams and EU candidate Matt Carthy at the National Ploughing Championships in Laois

Closing the first forum, Sinn Féin EU candidate Matt Carthy said:

“We need to have similar farming forums right across the country. I encourage representatives from other counties here today to bring together farming members and supporters to discuss farming issues.

“Farming is integral to my campaign for Europe and if I am successful in becoming a MEP for the region I will make the sustainability of farming a priority.”

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