The CAP budget needs to be revisited in order to pay farmers properly for the work they do, Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly told a European People's Party Group (EPP Group) conference on agriculture in Carlow on Friday 19 April.

"Our farmers are the custodians of the land. They are the ones who put food on the table, support our major export industries, but also they are the ones who can deliver the transition to sustainability. They must be paid properly for doing so," Kelly said.

In order to have productive, profitable, and sustainable farming, CAP funding to support farmers, food production, and food security needs to be secured, Kelly maintained.

Separate funding

Kelly called for a separate fund, alongside the CAP, dedicated to supporting environmental initiatives on farms.

This fund, he added, should provide assistance to farmers with designated land and prepare for potential actions required by the EU Nature Restoration Law.

"Certainty in funding streams is essential to incentivise future generations to commit to farming and ensure the long-term sustainability of agriculture.

"Irish milk, beef, and crop production are among the most carbon-efficient in the world. The reality is if agricultural products are not produced sustainably in Ireland, they will be sourced elsewhere, often with more impact on the environment," he said.

Nitrates derogation

In relation to retaining a nitrates derogation for Irish farmers, Kelly said that a derogation at 220kg N/ha needs to be held for a period of at least five years to provide clarity for farmers.

Over the past few years, he said, farmers have been implementing numerous measures at the farm level to enhance environmental sustainability and these efforts still need time to yield results.

"Farmers, like any other business, need certainty to justify their ongoing environmental investments.

"I have advocated for, and if elected will continue to, a nitrates level for Ireland that takes into account our unique grass-based system. This needs a comprehensive approach from our national government, farming organisations, MEPs, and even civil society.

'We are unique'

Ireland, he added, is a supporter of EU integration and has shown solidarity in many areas across its history in the union.

However, Kelly argued that Ireland should not be afraid to say that it is unique among its peers and EU regulations should reflect that.

"It is not about special treatment for the sake of it, instead, treatment of a special case," he said.