The Common Agricultural Policy’s (CAP) budget has to stick with inflation and go back to 2001 levels of expenditure, MEP for Midlands North West Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan has said.

He told an Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) European election debate in Claremorris on Tuesday night that, in real terms, if Ireland had the same amount of money for the CAP as we did in 2001, the average payment would be over €500/ha.

“In real terms at the moment in 2001, we got €1.5bn from Europe from CAP. This year, we’re getting about the same amount of money.

"For me, I’m not looking for more for farmers, I’m looking for it to stick with inflation and to go back to that level of expenditure. That would make an awful lot of things possible,” he said.

The sitting MEP, who is running for a third term in Europe, said the overall CAP budget needs to increase by 60% and, in his opinion, it should include a third pillar specifically for the environment.

“The reason why I would retain it in that budget is, the CAP budget is almost perpetual, it has been there for decades and decades.

For me, I’m not looking for more for farmers, I’m looking for it to stick with inflation

"Any other fund that comes along, let’s say like that €3.14bn fund for nature restoration, etc, that’s only until 2030 – if every last cent went towards nature restoration for farmers, it still wouldn’t be enough. It must become a third permanent pillar,” he said.

Food on the table

Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh, who is looking to be sent back to Brussels for a second term, said that the CAP needs to be fit for putting food on the table.

“Environment is important, but everyone here can attest to the fact that in the last couple of months, if not years, we’ve seen drastic changes to our weather.

“CAP needs to be fit for putting food on the table multiple times a day across not just Ireland but Europe and the world and it needs additional funding for the additional asks farmers are doing,” she said.

Leader of the Seanad and Fianna Fáil MEP candidate from Mayo Lisa Chambers said that the challenge at European level is not every country has a massive agricultural sector or the same asks or wants that Ireland has.

She said when you’re looking at the multi-annual financial framework, the CAP allocation is a crucial decision.

One direction

The CAP budget is “only going in one direction, quite disgracefully,” said sitting Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus.

“We’re coming to the renegotiation for CAP in 2025, there’s going to be a big emphasis on larger countries, who want to ramp up the EU as a defence mechanism. There’s €8bn set aside for an EU defence fund - they’re going to want to increase that and that money shouldn’t be going there,” he said.

He said he was not in favour of accelerated EU enlargement and that there needs to be a separate environmental funding scheme outside of the CAP.

We need a common food policy

Independent candidate Saoirse McHugh from Achill Island, Co Mayo, said that the EU needs to be thinking about an entire rewrite of the CAP.

“We need a common food policy,” she said, adding that one of the big issues with CAP is inequality.

“I know there’s already a CAP on basic payments, but [there needs to be a cap on] total payments.


James Reynolds of The National Party said that the CAP budget has effectively been frozen in time for 20 years.

The former county chair for Longford IFA and former treasurer of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association (ICSA) said that there has been massive inflation, a cost of living crisis and a cost of production crisis for farmers. He proposed a doubling of the CAP budget.

He said 50% of the current CAP budget had been “hijacked by the environmental lobby” for the “insane green agenda”.

Brian O’Boyle of People Before Profit said he wanted more fairness in farm payments in CAP and said that “we need to take on the corporate power” in agriculture, while Social Democrats candidate Rory Hearne said that farmers need to be subsidised properly.

“Small and medium farmers are the ones that can make big changes, but they need to be supported. We had €8bn in budget surplus this year, how is it [Irish Government] supporting farmers?”

He said as an MEP he would be standing and putting pressure on the Irish Government in terms of that.

EU project

Green Party candidate Pauline O’Reilly said she is fundamentally behind the European project and that Ireland has had success by being part of it.

“I believe that we need a separate environmental budget [to the CAP] because I do see farmers that want to work in a way that is sustainable and the thing that’s stopping people is the money.

“We need people to admit that the environment is going to be very much about what happens in Europe,” she said.

Former RTÉ midlands correspondent and Independent Ireland candidate Ciaran Mullooly said that in terms of the future, we must look at the green agenda and Ireland’s budget surplus.

“People talk about ACRES, let’s get a new environmental scheme from our own surplus here in Dublin. Take a million out of that to deal with the issues,” he said.

Independent candidate Michelle Smith said that the CAP budget has to increase.

“We have to acknowledge that we rely on our farmers, we rely on our fisheries as well. Yes, the cap has to increase. If they bring in Moldova and Ukraine, that adds more people to the pie and the CAP is going to reduce here by 20%,” she said.