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Wednesday 19 September 2018

Farm payments need radical overhaul: MEPs

Proposal would end link to historic production levels

Mairead McGuinness MEP.
Mairead McGuinness MEP.
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A radical overhaul of the current CAP payments regime has been proposed by the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee.

A motion passed by committee last week called for the modernisation of the current system for calculating direct payments in Pillar I, especially in Member States such as Ireland where the value of the entitlements is still partly calculated on the basis of historic production levels.

The committee proposed that the historic reference approach be replaced with an EU method of calculating payments. The basic component of this would be income support for farmers which delivered EU objectives and targets such as environmental biodiversity and climate change.

The motion claimed that the changes would make farmer payments post 2020 "simpler and more transparent". However, Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness, who is vice-president of the European Parliament, questioned the merits of committee's proposal.

"I am concerned about this latest proposal as it is not clear what the baseline would be for any new payment regime, or indeed how long it would take to develop such a system which takes account of an income support measure and public goods element," Ms McGuinness told the Farming Independent.

She said the committee's proposals raised serious questions.

"Would the new system be decoupled or coupled to land? Would the entitlements regime which farmers are familiar with today be abolished? Would it be simpler and more transparent as demanded by the committee?" Ms McGuinness asked.

The report from the agriculture committee will be put to the European Parliament at the end of May, with Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, publishing his detailed proposals for the CAP post 2020 in early June.

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"While there is little clarity about whether a radical new payment regime will be proposed, it is highly likely that mandatory capping and higher payments for the first hectares is on the cards," Ms McGuinness said.

However, Irish expert Alan Mathews has cast doubt on Commission assurances that a €60,000 limit will be enforced on direct payments to individual applicants under the new CAP regime post 2020.

Loopholes

In a recent posting on the capreform.eu blog, Mr Mathews claimed that loopholes in the Commission's CAP reform plan will enable farmers to sidestep any capping measures by allowed applicants to deduct salaries and family wages from their direct payments.

The battle to hold Ireland's share of the overall CAP budget, and the manner in which those funds will be distributed among Irish farmers, promises to be both hard-fought and potentially divisive.

Ms McGuinness has already warned that Ireland will be under pressure from newer EU member states to hold its share of the overall CAP budget, which delivers around €1.5bn to the farm sector each year.

At the same time, MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan insisted recently that the country's small and more extensive farmers will be demanding an increased slice of total Irish payments this time around.

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