The trend of continually increasing levels of rules and regulation in farming came under heavy fire at the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) AGM in Athlone on Thursday.

Farmers expressed views from the floor that scheme payments are not compensating them sufficiently for the ever-tightening raft of environmental rules they face, as well as heavy criticism of EU Green Deal legislation, which many present claimed were drafted without adequate farmer consultation.

In his opening address to members, the ICSA’s new president Seán McNamara from Co Westmeath, hit out at the European Commission for “going too far with the Green Deal”.

“The EU has been long on shallow consultation and short on deep listening to the people on the ground who are supposed to transform their systems,” McNamara said.

“Let’s be clear, ivory tower academics and keyboard warriors cannot be allowed determine how farmers farm. The EU must pull back from its plant-based propaganda and start to listen to farmers.”

Protest support

All five of the TDs and MEPs invited to speak on a panel at the conference voiced support for the farmer protests which took place across many EU member states last week.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice commented that while he didn’t “condone people burning things”, it is his view that until “cities are brought to a standstill”, the drive towards more regulation will continue.

MEP Colm Markey claimed that the protests on the continent are witnessing broad support outside of farming circles, as other sectors are also grappling with EU regulations seen as excessive and costly to comply with.

“I was talking to some farmers from Germany on the barricades [in Brussels] and they were saying that everybody in Germany is behind the farmers, because they see across the board the level of regulation, the layers and layers of regulations are impacting every sector,” Markey commented.

Further criticism was heaped on Brussels by Sinn Féin’s farming spokesperson Claire Kerrane TD, who stated that there is “very little understanding” of Ireland’s grass-based farming systems when new laws are being passed.

“I think there is a growing frustration for farmers in Ireland when so much comes so quickly.

“It is rushed, it is debated…and then we have a Department here that I think there is a huge job of work to try and fix and build a better relationship with farmers,” the Sinn Féin TD said.