Farmers heap pressure on Leo as they face 5pc cut to subsidies

'Average farmer will have no cut in payment' - Hogan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The European Commissions proposal to cut funding of the Common Agricultural Policy by 5pc (€17bn) has been met with condemnation by farm organisations.

Under the new proposals, EU expenditure on the policy will fall from the current 39pc of the total EU budget to 30pc.

The Commission said the reformed policy will place a greater emphasis on the environment and climate and will support the transition towards a more sustainable agricultural sector and the development of vibrant rural areas.

Direct payment levels per hectare between Member States will be streamlined and better targeted. They will continue to converge towards the EU average. A stronger focus will be put on supporting small and medium-sized farms, it said in its statement.

Under the new rules, Member States will be given more responsibility for making the best use of the agriculture budget. They will have more flexibility than today to shift funds between direct payments and rural development, in line with national needs and targets.

A new crisis reserve will be created to address crises generated by unforeseeable developments in international markets or by specific shocks to the agricultural sector as a result of the actions of non-EU countries.

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan said direct payments would not fall by more than 3.9pc in any Member State and that the impact would be lower for small and medium farmers after capping and a redistributive payment method is introduced.

The Commissioner said that sustaining rural development at its current level would cost Ireland €47m, due to a change in co-financing structures.

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Reacting to the proposals, IFA President Joe Healy heaped pressure on the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stating that he has a big political challenge on his hands, and an increased CAP Budget for Irish farmers has to be a red line issue for him in the negotiations.

He said a reduction in the CAP budget post-2020 would be a big blow for Irish farmers.

“It is clear that the Commission has moved to fill the Brexit gap, but they have prioritised other areas at the expense of the CAP, which is another setback for Irish farmers on foot of the UK decision to leave,” he said.

The IFA President said there is a huge task for the Irish Government, the Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan and our MEPs to get an increase in the CAP budget. “They must pull out all the stops and reject the cuts agenda by the Commission,” he said.

Joe Healy said, “All sectors have shared in the economic revival, yet farmers have had their direct payments eroded by inflation. At the very least, farmers need a CAP increase in line with inflation”.

Meanwhile, ICMSA President, Pat McCormack described the cut as unacceptable and he stated that the proposal will have a disproportionately damaging effect in rural Ireland through the multiplier effect as the payments go through farm families and out into the wider rural economy.  

Mr McCormack said that farmers have suffered significant cuts in previous CAP reforms and were now, yet again, having to take a substantial hit -  particularly those farmers depending on farming for their living who will be hit with an additional convergence cut.

“The Irish Government must firstly tell the Commission that cuts to CAP are out of the question and Member States – including Ireland - must make up the Brexit deficit and, secondly, we must seek out Member States with a similar commitment to the integrity of CAP and make a common cause with them,” he said.

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