IFA chief sets out policy aims

WTO negotiations, beef market management, sugar reform and the new partnership talks will be the four main areas of attention for Irish Farmers’ Association president John Dillon over his final six months in office.

“On WTO, the government must take a strong stand and have beef and milk declared ‘sensitive products’ in the negotiations, with appropriate tariff rates and import ceilings,” he said at the IFA’s annual Dublin Horse Show lunch.

And on beef he said that consumers were being misled because of the lack of transparent and effective labelling.

“Agriculture minister Mary Coughlan must deliver on her promise to introduce labelling in the early autumn.

“The figures on beef imports are frightening; a 60% increase last year, amounting to one-third of our domestic market.

“The double standards of the retailers and processors in the UK must be challenged. They demand the highest standards from EU producers and at the same time import large volumes of South American beef where there are serious issues on traceability, movement controls and animal health.”

The IFA president said the EU Commission’s proposals for the sugar industry would leave it totally uneconomic to grow sugar beet in Ireland. He called on Mrs Coughlan to continue to resist the proposals.

On the EU budget, Mr Dillon welcomed the defense by the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the EU summit in June of the 2002 decision fixing CAP spending up to 2013.

“Mr Ahern quite rightly pointed out that the CAP has already been reformed in 1999 and 2003. Less than 1% of total public expenditure in the EU goes to support agriculture and it is very misleading to portray the CAP depriving other important areas of an adequate share of public expenditure.”

Finally, on social partnership negotiations, Mr Dillon said the Irish exchequer would have to finance two-thirds of the cost of a range of measures.

These include the Rural Environment Protection Scheme, forestry and LEADER.

“During the recent negotiations in Brussels, this budget heading has taken a big hit. These are hugely important schemes and I believe that there is no option but for the exchequer to make up the shortfall.”