Pillar II cuts will colour CAP debate
There are growing fears that Ireland's allocation of Pillar II CAP funding could be in for a serious cut.
If the rumour mill in Brussels is to be believed then cuts of the order of 10pc are in the pipeline and even more severe reductions are being touted in some quarters.
Pillar II supports the rural development budget, as well as providing funding for environmental schemes such as AEOS and the Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS).
A 10pc hit in Brussels funding for Pillar II would see Ireland's total allocation fall by €35m to around €315m. That cut could be doubled and result in funding reductions of close to €70m at farm level as most Pillar II schemes are co-funded on a 50:50 basis by national governments.
The threat to Pillar II funding is bad news for farmers generally but is particularly so for those livestock farmers working on marginal land who are dependent on schemes such as DAS and the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme (SCWS).
It also has implications for the CAP reform debate taking place here at home. On more than one occasion during the public meetings organised by Minister Coveney in the autumn, it was suggested that farmers with poor single farm payments, particularly those in the west, could depend on Pillar II funded schemes to make up for this.
However, the rumours in Brussels, as well as the recent Budget cuts – which once again hit funding for the DAS and slashed support for the SCWS – have demonstrated that farmers with low SFP entitlements cannot depend on Pillar II for support.
This view was articulated by Ireland West MEP Marian Harkin over the weekend.
"Given the current uncertainty particularly in regard to rural development payments we now need a more up front discussion as to the share out of the Single Farm Payment and how all farmers would be affected," Ms Harkin said.
"Given the evisceration of many rural development schemes over the past few years and the uncertainty regarding future funding, many farmers have seen and may see very significant cuts to their rural development payments.
"This means that Pillar I payments, such as the Single Farm Payment, may become the only game in town," she added.
In essence, if Pillar II funds are to be cut and the Government continues to pull back on exchequer support for farm schemes – as it has been doing since the downturn hit in 2008 – the a serious redistribution of SFP entitlements will have to be back on the agenda.
One group of farmers cannot be expected to take all the pain.