The flattening of CAP payments remains a hugely divisive issue, with the farm organisations taking divergent views on the matter.
The IFA and ICMSA are steadfastly opposed to further convergence beyond the current 60pc level, unless additional funding is provided by the State or the EU to bring farmers on low payments up to the national average.
However, the INHFA contend that basing farm payments on production levels achieved in the reference years of 2000 to 2002 is a flawed process. The INHFA has therefore demanded the full flattening of payments to the national average of €265-268/ha.
Setting out its position on the matter the IFA stated: “We too want to see more money going to farmers with low payments. But the EU or the Irish government will have to come up with the money. It cannot be taken off other farmers. They have given enough.”
ICMSA president, Pat McCormack, pointed out that farmers with high per hectare payments but low overall payments suffered unfairly under the ‘full-flattening’ approach.
Mr McCormack claimed that a more nuanced approach to convergence needs to be taken and that CAP funds must only go to genuine farmers.
“A definition of a farmer needs to be established that caters for all categories of farmers - be it upland or lowland - but excludes people who are simply drawing payments,” Mr McCormack said.
However, INHFA president, Colm O’Donnell, said that basing annual CAP payments of over €1.1 billion on the reference years of 2000, 2001 and 2002 was no longer justifiable.
He said the unfairness of the current regime was highlighted by the Greening payment rates, where different farmers received between €48/ha and €210/ha for carrying out “the exact same measures” based on the output of their respective holdings two decades ago.
Full convergence would involve the redistribution of €60m in CAP funds to farmers working the country’s most difficult lands, Mr O’Donnell said. He maintained that the issue of farmers with low overall payments by but high per acre payments could addressed through a higher front-loaded payment on the first 10-20ha.