Farm payment flattening is a crude way of delivering out money to farmers, the IFA president Francie Gorman has said.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal in his office at the Irish Farm Centre this week, he said he would like to see the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) evolve to see farmers rewarded for producing food but also rewarded for delivery of environmental ambition.

“I don’t believe it’s a one-size-fits-all. I don’t believe that what’s suitable for one part of the country is necessarily suitable for the other,” he said.

When asked what position the IFA would be taking on convergence in the negotiations for the next CAP, considering it chose an “upward only” convergence policy last time out, Gorman said unless there is a change to the direction of CAP, reform isn’t going to happen.

“The direction at the moment is it’s flattening, it’s paying farmers for environmental ambition and not food production. I don’t agree with that direction. I think there needs to be a greatly enlarged CAP budget to reflect the increased costs that farmers have had over the last two decades, because, essentially, the CAP budget has been frozen with no account of inflation taken.

“We need an increased CAP budget and if they want farmers to deliver environmental ambition, there needs to be a separate budget. To be clear, I know very few farmers that are not up for delivering a greater level of environmental ambition, nature restoration, but it can’t be done at the expense of food production,” he said.

The IFA is continuing to protest around the country this week as part of the association’s ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign ahead of the local and European elections this summer. Gorman said that the IFA has a number of asks of Government from the protest action.

He said the campaign is about engagement, consultation and the design of policy and the funding of policy.

He claimed that the Agri Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) interim payments and the 9,000 farmers being accepted into tranche two of the scheme were delivered by the IFA.

“Without the protests, without it being an election year, you mightn’t have that. There’s other issues as well that need to be sorted imminently; the residential zoned land tax, the VAT refund issue on certain items. The number one ask immediately is that a tillage support package is put in place,” he said.

He warned that without a package, Ireland’s tillage area could decrease again next year. This would be on top of the 20,000ha that is forecast to be lost this year.

“The overall feeling among farmers is that they’re being regulated out of business. And we see that time and time again, through various schemes, and the way the derogation was handled is probably the best example,” he said.

He doesn’t believe that the current round of protest action has weakened the IFA’s ability to campaign on one key issue, should it arise in the future.

“The next phase is to target a protest in every county town, with the possibility going to Dublin or back to county towns to cause greater disruption if we have to,” he said.


Gorman has said that the IFA would like to sit down with An Taisce and speak about the nitrates derogation. An Taisce has challenged the legal basis for the derogation.

The IFA is a notice party in the case. If both parties met on the topic, he said: “We’d be pointing out first and foremost that the reduction in the stocking rate was not going to deliver a discernible improvement in water quality and that if they want to improve water quality we need to ensure that farmers get time, that the measures that are taken on farm will deliver. They need time. That’s not being given to us at the moment.”

Gorman said that he would also tell An Taisce that arbitrarily cutting stock numbers is not going to deliver an improvement in water quality.

The IFA president also doubled down on comments he made regarding water quality on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Show last week.

IFA president Francie Gorman interviewed by Irish Farmers Journal news editor Amy Forde.\ Philip Doyle
Gorman suggested that Irish waterbodies are of a far higher standard than those of other EU countries. If “you visually look into the water courses in Europe, they don’t look to be as pristine as we have here”.

“We took part in an ASSAP scheme in our own area and they visually look at the wildlife associated with your rivers and is that increasing or decreasing. It’s not just about testing the water, it’s about visually looking at the water.”

He told the Irish Farmers Journal this week that “you test your water but you also have to have a visual look at wildlife that’s around the river, the quality of the water itself, the level of algae in it. It’s not just necessarily about putting it in a test tube and taking a measure.”

The Irish Farmers Journal pointed out that the test tube and the measure is what will decide the derogation.

“It may well be,” he conceded. “But maybe we need to look and see if there are other ways we can look at water quality and see can we get delivery in that.”

Nature restoration

Farmers have been told by Government that the targets in the Nature Restoration Law up to 2030 can be met by the rewetting of state land.

However, Gorman said “we’re not quite sure after 2030 where we go. What we’re clear on – farmers cannot be by stealth, or directly, forced to farm their land in a way that they don’t want to whether it’s through the derogation or nature restoration, within reason taking into account good agricultural practice.

“Farmers should be able to farm their land as they see fit,” he said.

Gorman added that the actions under the Nature Restoration Law must be funded from a separate budget to the CAP.

Gorman’s position on proposed suckler exit scheme differs to that of his predecessor.

He said the proposal should have been looked at in greater detail, with the proviso that any scheme should not be linked to an effective sterilisation of land for breeding livestock.

We deliver good representation for farmers in terms of policy whether it’s taxation or policy around CAP, derogation

“I’m not for it or against it. I don’t think it was given enough discussion. But a red line for me would be that we can’t have land sterilisation as a result of it. But if there was a scheme in place that was workable it might free up pressure on land availability and it could deliver environmentally as well.”

IFA membership

When asked what the IFA will deliver for members in light of the increased membership fee in 2024, Gorman said that the association is already delivering for farmers.

However, he warned that farmer services could be cut.

“We deliver good representation for farmers in terms of policy whether it’s taxation or policy around CAP, derogation.

“There’s a deficit in the organisation’s finances that needs to be plugged and if we don’t have that increase, we will have to look at cutting the services to farmers.

“I think farmers get good value for their membership. It’s a responsibility for me to ensure that on foot of that increase, that farmers get value for money, good representation and that their money is spent wisely,” he said.

The Laois man believes that the levy income the IFA receives is the fairest way the IFA has of funding the association, in the short- to medium-term.

Other farm organisations

The IFA would like more collaboration with other farm organisations, he said.

“We’ve spoken to Denis Drennan [Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association president] in particular. Both farm organisations have spoken and certainly on issues, like the derogation, if we can work together that would be the ambition,” he said.