DAS at risk of further cuts as budget proposal falls shy of €30m target
Securing the €30m Budget savings from the total expenditure on the Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) could prove a lot more contentious than was initially envisaged.
Funding for DAS was cut from €220m to €190m in the Budget. However, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, stressed that the savings would be met by ironing out anomalies in the scheme and that payments to active farmers would not be badly hit.
The measures introduced included increasing the minimum stocking rate from 0.15LU/ha to 0.3LU/ha, increasing the minimum retention period for stock from three months to six months and excluding horses from stocking rate calculations.
In addition, farmers were excluded from claiming a DAS payment on lands 80km or more from their primary holding.
However, it has emerged that these measures will not make sufficient savings to hit the €30m target.
It is understood that a number of options are being considered, but any final package would have to be cleared by the EU Commission.
Increasing the minimum stocking rate again could be an option. However, this could be classed as a trade distorting coupled payment and may not be allowed by Brussels.
Other options likely to be considered are an across-the-board reduction in payments of 14pc, or a reduction in the maximum area that payments could be made on.