Farmers with highest payments are not the most productive - INHFA

Recipients of higher payments have progressively lower stocking rates according to latest BPS data

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INHFA President Colm O'Donnell. Photo Brian Farrell

INHFA president Colm O'Donnell has described as a "myth" the assertion that applicants with the highest per hectare entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) are the most productive farmers.

Mr O'Donnell (pictured) said that information released to the INHFA under a freedom of information request proved that the most productive farmers were not those with the highest per hectare entitlements.

The Department of Agriculture figures for 2017 show that farmers with payments of between €300/ha and €400/ha have the highest average stocking rate of 1.77lu/ha.

However, farmers with higher payments have progressively lower stocking rates, falling from 1.7lu/ha for those with average payments of €400-500/ha, to 1.62lu/ha for those with average payments of €600-700/ha, and back to 1.26lu/ha for those with payments between €800/ha and €900/ha.

"The widely expressed viewpoint that the farmers in receipt of the highest per hectare payment are the most productive has being proven as nothing more than myth," Mr O'Donnell claimed.

He pointed out that farmers in receipt of between €100/ha and €200/ha have a marginally higher stocking density at 1.19lu/ha than those with entitlements of €1,000/ha, who have a stocking density of 1.18lu/ha.

While Mr O'Donnell accepted that many of those with high entitlements were tillage farmers or vegetable growers, which obviously impacted on average stocking rates, he said the Department's data destroyed the contention that high BPS payments were an indicator of high productivity.

The INHFA leader argued that farmers with payments below €100/ha were often working designated lands and commonage and were therefore constrained by stocking-rate restrictions.

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These farmers were as productive as their environmental conditions and Department regulations allowed them to be, he said.

CAP negotiations

"Farmers and the general public should no longer be deluded by all the talk of ensuring that higher CAP payments go to the supposedly most productive farmers and realise that these payments are there for all our farmers," Mr O'Donnell said.

The next round of CAP negotiations are set to get under way once a budget for the period 2020-27 is agreed by EU finance ministers.

The push for greater convergence in payments and efforts to introduce a flat rate payment during the last Ciolos reforms of CAP provoked considerable discord within the Irish farm organisations.

There are proposals to limit payments under CAP 2020 to a maximum of €70,000 per applicant but the effectiveness of such a measure has been diluted in early plans by proposals that large recipients would be able to include wage costs as a means of avoiding BPS cuts.

The Department's figures show that a total of 3,591 farmers received payment rates in excess of €500/ha in 2017. The average Irish payment rate is around €260/ha.

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