It's still all to play for in CAP reform
Published 18/10/2011 | 05:00
While you might not hear any of the farm organisations admit it, behind closed doors their policy people are breathing a sigh of relief.
Just a year or two ago, there were dire warnings from Europe that the huge disparity in payment levels between old and new member states would have to be rectified. To do this, we were told, would require a massive transfer of money from west to east, since there just wasn't any more money in the pot to increase payments in countries such as Latvia and Romania to average levels similar to Ireland.
Against a backdrop of collapsing banks and economies, there were also whisperings of possible cuts to the overall CAP budget. Any of the above would have had disastrous consequences for farmers here.
Instead, we are left debating what farmers need to do to qualify for roughly the same overall national envelope as in previous years.
Yes, the funding for LEADER type programmes has reduced from €350m to closer to €300m, but that is still an awful lot better than the original cut of €150m.
There will also be plenty of farmers, especially those who have built up high payments per hectare, that will feel hard done by these proposals.
But have we all forgotten 2002 when the decoupled payments were first unveiled and the general perception was that we had seven years to use the payments to get ourselves into a position where we could compete on world markets? There was no certainty then that these payments were going to last forever.