Farmers put on alert after €170m DAS payment comes under threat
The future of the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme (DAS) payment, which is worth over €170m per annum to 88,500 farmers, has come under threat with the EU reform of support payments to farmers, post 2012.
The payments have been in place since the mid-1980s, with the emphasis on support for farms of mountain-type land at €96 and €109/ha per annum, and payments for land in severely handicapped lowland regions ranging from €82 to €96/ha. Unlike the SFP payment, the DAS payment is subject to a minimum stocking rate requirement on the land.
Tom Moran, Department of Agriculture secretary general, told farmers at the ICMSA agm at Limerick that the EU Commission is now opposing the continuation of the present structure of the payments under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.
"The commission want to bring the DAS payments into the Single Farm Payment post 2012 and they also want to move this scheme from Pillar II to Pillar I [of the CAP]. We are opposed to the changes, but we are facing a challenge," Mr Moran said.
Any change in the payments would hit at the weakest sector of Irish farmers and pressure by the EU for change will concern farmers in the poorer regions of the country in particular.
He said negotiations on the future of the SFP payment will intensify but a final decision on the structure of payments for the future is unlikely to be agreed before 2012. He said there is a move by the commission to cap total payments, but it is unlikely to have much effect for recipients in this country.
Of greater concern is the desire by the commission to bring payments into greater uniformity across the EU, where there is a huge variation.
The negotiation stance being adopted by the Government was primarily on the overall amount to be retained by Ireland with discretion as to how the payment would be divided among farmers.