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Saturday 10 December 2016

EU ready to back down on the 2014 proposals

Declan O'Brien

Published 27/09/2011 | 05:00

The EU Commission appears ready to change their proposals to make 2014 a reference year for the single farm payment (SFP).

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The plan, which was included in the latest leaked document on CAP reform, has provoked strong opposition from Ireland and other EU member states.

However, efforts to have the measure amended ahead of publication of the draft CAP reform package on October 12 appeared to be gaining ground.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney last week launched a blistering attack on the 2014 proposal, labelling it "nonsensical".

He confirmed that senior Department officials had made a detailed submission to Brussels on the potential impact of a 2014 reference year.

Ireland has also sought support from other member states on the issue, highlighting the possible disruption and price distortion for leased land that the measure could provoke.

IFA president John Bryan held discussions on the matter with senior EU Commission officials in Brussels last week.

Mr Bryan said he was satisfied that the Commission was fully aware of the serious implications for Irish farmers if their concerns relating to the 2014 reference year were not addressed.

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He said the IFA's discussions with the Commission were very constructive and he believed that farmer concerns on the reference year would be addressed in the October 12 document.

Sources in Brussels said Commission staff at the National Ploughing Championships in Athy also got "the message clearly from farmers".

However, a Commission spokesman refused to comment on the likelihood of a U-turn on the proposed measure.

"The proposals will be under constant review up to October 12 and we are aware of the concerns with regard to the 2014 reference year proposal," he said. The spokesman added that moving away from a historical period method for calculating farmers' SFPs remained an essential consideration for the Commission.

He said the issue of 'naked' acres, or eligible land without entitlements, had also to be addressed. It is estimated that up to 10pc of all eligible lands in Ireland, or close to 500,000ha, have no entitlements attached to them.

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Meanwhile, the ICMSA has come out against a flat rate single farm payment, despite a survey of the organisation's members showing that this was the most popular method of calculating entitlements.

"ICMSA is sending a very clear message that the interests of active farmers must be addressed and we can no longer afford to be subsidising 'armchair' farmers at the expense of those who are working the land," ICMSA deputy president John Comer said.

"With reference to a flat rate payment proposal, it is quite clear that the vast majority of active, committed farmers have a payment well in excess of the national average of €270/ha and any proposal to restructure payments around a flat rate system would do huge damage to active producers."

A recent survey of more than 300 ICMSA members found that just one third wanted to retain the historical basis for calculating the SFP.

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