The Government must stop “overlooking” small and family farms, or else risk compromising the survival of rural communities, a priest-farmer said.
Fr Joseph McEvoy’s statement comes after Pope Francis called for governments to include small farms as “privileged actors” as we “restart” following the pandemic.
The Meath priest and smallholder farmer echoed the Pope’s statement that “their traditional knowledge should not be overlooked or ignored”, saying it’s “vital” that this knowledge is considered by the Government.
Farming “is just such a back bone of things in the country”, Fr McEvoy told The Irish Catholic.
“I think it’s vital, not just important, vital, that their traditional knowledge shouldn’t be overlooked or ignored,” he continued.
“If we want our rural communities to thrive and to be sustained, then we have to give more consideration to farms.
“Even from the point of view of heritage and tradition, that if they’re going to be overlooked, we’re going to start losing things again.”
Fr McEvoy adds that small farms are important food sources: “If they were to go, and you see this happening in the UK already, food prices would skyrocket.”
As the Government considers how to restructure the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Fr McEvoy expressed concern that it will favour industrial farms over small and family farms.
“Even the way the Common Agricultural Policy is being reformed at the minute, it’s geared more towards large, industrial farms than it is towards small family farms,” he said.
Small farmers are reliant on CAP subsidies to survive, Fr McEvoy continued, saying that the majority are “part-time farmers, because it’s not sustainable anymore. They’re working as well as farming”.
More than two-fifths of farms in Ireland (43%) are small, less than 20 hectares. But “when it comes to policy making, it’s never a consideration about small farms and family farms”, Fr McEvoy explained.