'New CAP must avoid preferential treatment of elite'

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Claire Mc Cormack

THE European Commission must ensure that CAP reforms are "fair and equitable" to all farmers, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has warned.

With reports that new CAP objectives will be geared more towards environmental factors, Vincent Roddy, INHFA chairman, says farmers working in disadvantaged regions must be central to talks.

"Any CAP reform needs to ensure fairness - something that was completely absent in the last reform. We also need to ensure the link with how/what farmers produced in 2000/01/02 is broken," he said.

"Any new CAP deal, if it follows the present model, should limit payments to €400/ha, and if payments are to be prioritised on environmental needs - then even €400/ha is probably too high," he told the Farming Independent.

As for concerns over an accumulating underspend in the Rural Development Programme (RDP) - jointly funded under CAP Pillar II and National Funding, the INHFA believe this money should be streamlined towards the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme.

"The best way to spend the underspend is on the ANC where we would be looking for significant increases to the budget of €300m."

As part of the ongoing ANC review, ordered by Brussels, the Department of Agriculture has been tasked with re-examining all land designations.

With €205m currently being paid out to over 95,000 recipients, EU officials have argued that the €28/ha difference in payments to hill farmers and those in the least disadvantaged areas does not accurately reflect the disparity in income-earning potential from the land.

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"The biggest threat under CAP has been the way the entire Greening has been handled and I think that is going to come under a lot of criticism," said Mr Roddy.

"Greening requirements have been toned down and should be the same for all farmers - an average payment between €75 and €79 per ha."

"Around 20,000 to 30,000 farmers really need to be protected - 100pc of them are in the ANC areas. We have to get money to those farmers or they won't stay farming."

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