Farm Ireland

Thursday 27 October 2016

System failure? Massive difference in CAP payment rates

New figures have revealed massive variations in per hectare CAP payments - and some of the country's richest farmers are the big winners

Claire McCormack

Published 11/10/2016 | 02:30

Éamon Ó Cuív. Photo: Frank McGrath
Éamon Ó Cuív. Photo: Frank McGrath

A "levelling off" of EU supports to farmers has been called for after figures released by the Department of Agriculture confirmed massive differences in CAP payment rates between the east and west of the country.

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While farmers in the east and southeast have the highest average Single Farm Payments, at over €300/ha, those in the northwest generally receive around €120/ha less.

The Department figures are based on the Single Farm Payments for 2014 and 2015. They show that Carlow farmers have the country's highest average direct payments at €332/ha, while those in Donegal have the lowest at €182/ha.

Fianna Fáil's Éamon Ó Cuív said the disparity in payments between eastern and western counties illustrated the unfairness of the current system.

"We need the levelling off in the combined basic and greening payment as the farmers on the best land are getting the highest subsidies, and those on the worst land get the lowest," Deputy Ó Cuív said.

"At the very least we should be moving towards a uniform payment per hectare. Those on the poorest of land need the biggest payment," he maintained.

An Irish Independent investigation revealed that 20 landowners received over €175,000 each, and six individuals pocketed over €250,000.

The biggest individual payment is listed as Walter Furlong's €389,640, but Larry Goodman's family receive €483,753.

"There are farmers getting in excess of €200,000 and effectively all they have to do is keep the land in good agricultural condition, they don't actually have to farm it," said Deputy Ó Cuív.

These massive payments contrasted with the current supports available under Areas of Natural Constraint, which was limited to a maximum of €3,000 per applicant, he said.

Some industry groups warned during the last CAP reform debate in 2013-15 that a radical redistribution of direct payments was not possible as such a move would seriously hit output from those farmers with high supports.

However, this view was challenged by the many farmers in the west and by politicians such as Deputy Ó Cuív.

"My view is that we are running a big risk of it becoming so uneconomic to farm ecologically important, less fertile land that we are in serious danger of land abandonment and ecological disaster as a consequence," he maintained.

Vincent Roddy, INHFA national chairman, said the EU policy of convergence would result in average payments to individual farmers increasing and decreasing by around 10-15pc by 2019.

But while convergence will see around €100m redistributed to farmers with low Basic Payments, Roddy said the bulk of these monies have been taken from farmers with mid-range payments of around €300-€400/ha, rather than those with extremely high supports.

"We will still see farmers getting €700/ha and over €100,000 per year by 2019 and this is where we have a major problem," he said.

The INHFA is also concerned about the manner in which the Greening payment is calculated.

"We believe two farmers doing the same thing should get the same payment and if it was to be paid out fairly then the starting point for every farmer should be a Greening payment of €76/ha," said Mr Roddy.

John Comer, ICMSA president was not surprised by the figures due to the historic nature of the payments.

However, he insisted that CAP direct payments should be directed at active farmers and not land-holding corporations or 'hobby' farmers.

"We do not consider the present system as ideal and we are on the record as favouring certain reforms - one of which is a ceiling in direct payments to any one recipient," he said.

The Department figures confirm that the old sugar beet growing counties still have the highest direct payments. Carlow tops the list, but Laois farmers have the next highest average at €327/ha, Kilkenny is on €326/ha, Wexford is at €325/ha and Tipperary farmers average €306/ha.

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