Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Bryan needs to explain Pillar II statements

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The Farming Independent has come in for some flak of late from a section of readers for what one caller termed our "unfair criticism" of the IFA and its leader, John Bryan.

These disgruntled callers claimed that the coverage of IFA dissent in the west over the proposed level of Government co-funding for CAP Pillar II had been biased, unbalanced and unfair.

Callers' main complaints were:

1.That no Government decision had been taken regarding the level of co-funding for Pillar II so it's too early to call it yet;

2.That the IFA has been the focus for criticism regarding the level of co-funding when responsibility for this decision rests with the Government and, more particularly, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney;

3.And that the IFA was bearing the brunt of the criticism while the other farm organisations get off scot-free.

All of these points are fair and deserve answers; so let's deal with them.

It's correct to say that a decision has not been made on the level of CAP co-funding but all of Minister Coveney's statements of late point to a major reduction in the Government co-funding for Pillar II.

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The minister says he's battling for a total annual Pillar II fund of up to €500m, which would put the Government's total expenditure each year at around €190m given that Brussels funding is set at €313m.

The €500m total is grand but its €90m a year shy of the total the Government could spend if they opted to match the EU's Pillar II contribution on a 47pc to 53pc basis. Such a move would deliver an annual Pillar II fund of €590m. Losing €90m a year adds up to a total loss to rural Ireland of €630m over the seven-year lifetime of the current CAP regime.

But why are IFA in the firing line and why are the ICMSA and ICSA escaping?

The IFA is facing criticism in the west from its own members because John Bryan told farmer meetings he had an understanding with Minister Coveney that Pillar II would be funded on a 50:50 basis.

The ICMSA's John Comer didn't make the statement; Gabriel Gilmartin of the ICSA didn't make the statement; John Bryan did.

This statement was made at a time when farmers in the west wanted the IFA to support greater redistribution of €1.2bn paid annually under Pillar I in single farm payments.

A radical redistribution of the single farm payment was strongly opposed by the IFA leadership. So why did John Bryan insist he had an understanding with Minister Coveney on co-funding for Pillar II? Was he attempting to quieten those seeking a a greater distribution of Pillar I payments, or did Minister Coveney renege on a deal on Pillar II?"

Maybe the IFA will tell us!

Happy Christmas to all and the best of luck to the new IFA leader.

Irish Independent