Changes to SFP could be very divisive
The latest draft document on Commission plans for CAP reform for the 2014-2020 period has the farm organisations up in arms.
The crux of the problem centres on the move away from the use of historical reference periods for calculating the single farm payment (SFP) and the timeframe in which this is to be achieved.
Speaking at the Agricultural Science Association conference in Maynooth last week, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney admitted that there was a strong push at European level to get every member state to axe the historical basis for farm payments and instead switch to a simplified area-based payment.
But while he accepted that Ireland couldn't cling to a system based on what was happening on farms 10 or more years ago, he said simplistic changes to the payments would be equally unacceptable.
Mr Coveney acknowledged that 80pc of the payments were paid to 20pc of Irish farmers, but he said that this 20pc accounted for 80pc of the production in Irish agriculture.
Much has been made lately on how regional flat-rate SFP payment may be introduced. An interesting contribution to the conference on this issue was delivered by the EU Commission's Dr Tassos Haniotis.
Dr Haniotis urged policymakers here not to get hung up on using administrative boundaries to determine how a new payment system should work. He said there were options open to Department officials when they were drawing up alternatives to the historically based system.