Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 21 September 2017

Angry rebuttal to Coveney's SFP 'flattening'

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The silent majority of farmers that stand to lose over €200m of additional Single Farm Payments (SFP) if Ireland's CAP proposal succeeds began to find its voice this week as information meetings on CAP reform continued.

EU proposals on Ireland's €1.3bn SFP want to make the payments more 'equitable' by transferring €297m from farmers with the highest payments to those with the lowest.

However, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, has proposed a diluted form of 'flattening' that aims to redistribute €79m or 6pc of the total amount. He has joined forces with the IFA to promote the plan which he claims is in the best interests for the majority of Ireland's farmers.

These claims were challenged at last week's CAP information meeting in Mullingar.

"How can the minister claim to be representing the best interests of the majority when the majority stands to gain most from the original proposals that he is vehemently opposed to?" asked Roscommon sheep farmer Vincent Roddy.

Mr Roddy said that the situation where the 2,047 farmers with the biggest SFPs get more than the 52,000 farmers with SFPs lower than €5,000 was an anomaly that needed to be looked at.

Ireland West MEP, Marian Harkin has also taken issue with the focus of the CAP reform debate here. "Why has the family farm been replaced with the 'productive' farm? We need to restore balance to the debate, just as we need balance when it comes to supporting farming activity in Ireland," said Ms Harkin.

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"Farming is not only about production on good land -- it is also about production on marginal land and in adverse climatic conditions. Where farmers can get their livestock out to grass at least two months earlier, there is a huge bottom line advantage," said the Sligo-based MEP.

However, Ms Harkin also believes that a completely flattened SFP by 2020 is too drastic.

Instead, she favours the more gradual approach envisaged in the 'tunnel model'. This model has been proposed by the Portuguese MEP, Luis Capoulas Santos. It would see all payments brought closer to the national average but limits the loss to less than 30pc for any individual farmer.

Ms Harkin believes that this would allow farmers on higher payments time to plan and adjust.

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