Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

A lot more bite in CAP reform debate

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A lot more bite has come into the CAP reform debate over the last 10 days.

But while the latest spat between the IFA and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney will dominate the headlines, it is the divisions within farm organisations that have the potential to become most divisive.

This was clearly illustrated at a farmer meeting that took place in Sligo on Sunday evening.

The meeting was addressed by Donie Shine of the Farm Family Rights Association, who insisted that Pillar I of CAP would remain the primary income support for farm incomes and urged west of Ireland farmers to secure "their fair share".

Mr Shine insisted this could only be secured by the front loading of the SFP on the first 20-25ha, with farmers being paid up to €400/ha.

This proposal is being strongly opposed by the main farm organisations and the fact that it has built-up traction over the last week will be a cause of concern for them.

However, more worrying for the main organisations were the sentiments expressed by local farmer Mary Rooney.

Ms Rooney bemoaned the fact that none of the main farmer organisations appeared to be representing the views of members with low SFP entitlements.

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She said ordinary members of all the organisations needed to make their views known to their leadership. She added that if the leaders continued to fail to represent their interests, they should hold back levies.

"This is much bigger than the individual farmers; it's about keeping rural communities alive," Ms Rooney said. Dissatisfaction with the stance taken at national level on CAP reform was also expressed by Gerard Queenan, Sligo county chairman of the ICMSA.

Mr Queenan read a prepared statement from ICMSA head office and then informed the meeting that, personally, he agreed with Donie Shine's proposal.

Meanwhile, local Sinn Fein TD, Michael Colreavy, warned that the SFP should not be used to pay off the debts of farmers who had invested heavily on off-farm ventures.

Mr Colreavy told the meeting that total debts on Irish farms included a significant amount of off-farm investments.

Given that the off-farm debts were mainly held by farmers with sizeable direct payments, Deputy Colreavy warned that this debt burden – and the requirement for large SFPs to service these loans – should in no way influence the distribution of Ireland's Pillar I entitlements.

Ireland West MEP Marian Harkin told the meeting that in the absence of any commitment to Pillar II funding, the focus for farmers with low entitlements had to be on how the SFP would be distributed.

Irish Independent