Agriculture Minister criticizes “ill-advised” letter from Green MP on loans to young farmers



The agriculture minister lashed out at a Green Party MEP for a letter he wrote to bank CEOs questioning lending practices to young farmers.

Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe wrote to bank bosses last month to express concern over approving large loans for young farmers to increase their herd.

It is understood that the letter questioned bank lending practices, as well as a reference to their continued investment in a carbon-intensive sector.

The letter was published on European Parliament letterhead.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said he “strongly disagrees” with Mr Cuffe’s actions.

“I think it was inappropriate for him to do that,” he said.

“I think he should have been guided by government policy on this, which is set out in the Food Vision 2030 strategy, which sets out a truly sustainable platform for the development of Irish agriculture over the next decade.

“This is the platform that I, as a minister and the government, ask all banks and financial institutions to support and to which all agricultural stakeholders have subscribed.

Totally inappropriate

“I think his letter was very misguided and totally inappropriate, I think he recognized that as well.”

The Green Party distanced itself from the comments after an outcry from the agriculture industry and government partners Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. He said it was not party policy and that he was unaware that Mr Cuffe sent the letter.

Leo Varadkar told a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party that the letter was “worse” than he thought.

Mr Cuffe has since said he was “wrong” to single out young farmers.

Mr McConalogue said it was unfair to specifically target young farmers.

“We have to encourage young farmers to come,” he said.

“Another problem is that the narrative has been too confrontational between the sustainability agenda and agriculture, as the two can be complementary.

“The two must become complementary because by becoming more sustainable by reducing emissions and our footprint, our food will be more attractive.

“We have to see it as a complementary approach as opposed to a confrontation.”

Mr Cuffe later told RTÉ he shouldn’t have focused his attention on young farmers when the economy as a whole must work to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

“In all fairness for what my colleagues do in government, they are working to encourage organics, biomethane and forestry and all have a role to play in reducing our emissions,” the MEP added.



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