'Coveney sacrificing low income farmers'
Fianna Fáil accuses the minister of favouring larger operators
Farmers with low single farm payments (SFP) are being asked to sacrifice themselves in order to protect farmers with big payments, under Minister Coveney's CAP reform proposals, Fianna Fáil deputy Éamon Ó Cuív has claimed.
Speaking at a meeting in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim on Thursday night, the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on agriculture said asking low income farmers to back Minister Coveney's CAP reform proposals instead of supporting the approach taken by EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos was akin to asking them to approve a policy that took money out of their pockets. The commission's CAP reform proposals would see €297m of Ireland's €1.3bn SFP allocation redistributed from farmers with the highest entitlements to those with the lowest. It would also guarantee farmers a flat rate payment of around €260/ha.
The farm organisations and Minister Coveney have steadfastly opposed such a move, claiming that it would have a devastating impact on farm incomes and overall production from the sector.
A counter proposal from Minister Coveney would result in the redistribution of €79m in SFP payments. However, this approach was criticised at the Carrick-on-Shannon meeting as being too conservative and not addressing the needs of low income farmers.
"In asking farmers to support his position rather than that of Commissioner Ciolos, the minister is asking guys with low payments to sacrifice themselves to support farmers with big payments," deputy Ó Cuív said.
The sharp variation in SFP entitlements was further highlighted by Department of Agriculture figures for 2011 that show a serious east/west divide in payments.
Five western counties had the lowest per hectare entitlements and the lowest average payments to farmers. In contrast, the highest payments per farmer and per hectare were in the southeast of the country.
Those counties with the lowest payments per hectare were Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo, Donegal and Galway. Those with the highest were Kilkenny, Carlow, Laois, Wexford and Meath.