Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 15 August 2018

'Fairer CAP' needed to tackle east-west divide on payments

The counties with highest number of farmers receiving payments over €100,000 were Cork and Meath, each with 29 recipients.
The counties with highest number of farmers receiving payments over €100,000 were Cork and Meath, each with 29 recipients.

Ronnie Bellew

Eighty-seven Irish farmers received in excess of €125,000 under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) last year, with a further 102 getting between €100,000 and €125,000.

The figures are included in Department of Agriculture data which was released to the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) following a freedom of information request.

The number of high earners is just a fraction of the 124,000 farmers who qualify for CAP payments - less than 1pc received over €100,000 in Waterford last year even though the county has the highest average BPS. However, the group of high earners invariably includes some of the agri-sector's elite.

Among the top earners from the BPS each year are ABP owner Larry Goodman, the Queally brothers who are major shareholders in Dawn Meats, and the O'Shea family who own Iverk Produce in south Kilkenny.

The counties with highest number of farmers receiving payments over €100,000 were Cork and Meath, each with 29 recipients.

Kildare comes next with 10 farmers who received in excess of €100,000 in 2017, while Louth had 11 and Waterford had 10.

The northwest also had a small number of farmers with very high entitlements. One farmer in Mayo received over €100,000, there was one in Sligo, and seven in Donegal.

The Department figures are certain to reignite the argument around the capping of EU supports.

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The INHFA contend that capping of payments at €60,000 would deliver up to €25m annually which could be redirected to farmers with low payments or allocated to other CAP schemes.

Economy

INHFA president, Colm O'Donnell, said such a move would not only be fairer but would also benefit the wider rural economy.

"A fairer CAP that targets the many farmers who were left behind will be of benefit not just to those farmers, but to all of rural Ireland," Mr O'Donnell said.

"Limiting payments at €60,000 can be achieved and by the use of a reference year, we can ensure it is not abused through the splitting of payments," he added.

The INHFA has rejected moves by some member states such as Germany to amend the Commission's proposals and make allowances for labour employed on farms as a means of protecting high direct payments.

Mr O'Donnell said such a move, if successful, would ensure that "an elite number of large-scale land owners, agri-related companies and even feed lots" would continue to benefit "at the expense of ordinary farmers".

The disparity in Irish CAP payments between intensive holdings in the east and more extensive farmers in the west caused serious internal tensions in the farm organisations during the last round of CAP reforms.

The Minister of Agriculture, Michael Creed, moved to head off similar divisions re-emerging by bringing all industry stakeholders together recently in an effort to build a national consensus on CAP reform.

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