I am calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney T.D, to take a more rigid stance and to staunchly and relentlessly protect the position of Irish farmers during CAP negotiations. Irish farmers across the board stand to lose out in these negations to accede to the wishes of Europe and many stand to lose a mammoth portion of their Single Farm Payment. It is my belief that the Minister is simply not doing enough to ensure the continued viability of all farms and stated that he is failing Irish farmers by failing to advocate their interests adequately.
It is the responsibility of Minister Coveney to ensure that the best possible deal is hammered out for Irish farmers. He must be cognisant of the need to protect, advance and support our productive farmers and the need to ensure the continued viability of smaller holdings. Smaller farms due to their limited acreage do not have capacity to generate large incomes and are reliant on the support of the Single Farm Payment. To deprive these farmers of this payment or to slash their payment would result in poverty and thousands being driven out of the industry.
Furthermore the proposals advanced in the current form are flawed and misguided in the extreme and will devastate productive farmers across the length and breadth of the country. If the Minister allows such a change the expansion and progress made by thousands of farmers will be wiped out in one fell swoop. This move will cripple active, productive farmers and will devastate their income. It will directly target and impact on farmers that have worked tirelessly over the past number of years to build up their farms, increase productivity and output. These farmers will have invested substantial sums in their business and taken a personal financial risk to advance and grow their business. If this proposals goes ahead these farms will now see their Single Farm Payment slashed by somewhere between 20-40%. By any standards it is unreasonable, to target these farmers to such a degree.
During these negotiations the emphasis must be placed on the dual approach of protecting farmers and protecting and advancing the Irish Agri-Business sector. Agriculture is still the bedrock of our economy and is undoubtedly essential to our future growth and development. At present there are in excess of 300,000 jobs created by this sector and some €9 billion generated in exports. The ambitions and goals as set out in Food Harvest 2020 must be to the forefront and no action that would drive these further away and out of reach can be accepted. Minister Coveney must bear these issues in mind and take a firm stance on this issue.