Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 23 February 2018

CAP reaction positive but devil in details

Concerns have already been expressed by the sheep lobby over the failure of the reforms to include a dedicated sheep headage payment
Concerns have already been expressed by the sheep lobby over the failure of the reforms to include a dedicated sheep headage payment
Simon Coveney
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

It's been a week now since the CAP Pillar II package was announced and there has been some time to absorb the detail of the proposals and to critically assess their possible impact.

The general reaction to the proposals has been positive, with farmers and the farm organisations broadly welcoming the thrust of the reforms.

But, as always, the devil will be in the detail and the true reaction to the CAP changes will be delivered when Minister Simon Coveney moves from the draft consultation paper on the new regime to the agreed regulations.

Concerns have already been expressed by the sheep lobby over the failure of the reforms to include a dedicated sheep headage payment.

However, the minister has been consistent on this issue and has stated from early on in the discussion process that he did not want to see reforms that returned the Department of Agriculture to an exercise in counting heads.

This will be of little consolation to sheep farmers, although they will benefit from the guarantee to maintain payments under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.

Hill sheep farmers will also gain from the changes to payments under Pillar I, although these will only build as the decade progresses.

The headline change announced in the Pillar II proposals is the GLAS scheme, which will replace AEOS and REPS.

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Minister Coveney has predicted that this will have an annual budget of €250m when it gets up and running in earnest and has its maximum membership of 50,000 farmers.

There was some surprise that this scheme got the go ahead given the hardball that Minister Coveney and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, were reportedly engaged in.

If you were to be cynical you'd be inclined to think that Minister Howlin gave way because there was a general acceptance that nowhere near €250m would be spent on the scheme each year. And there are some details in the regulations which would appear to support this view. Take for example the requirement for the 'upland conservation' action which demands that commonage farmers form grazing associations with at least 80pc of the farmers from each commonage having to sign up for all the farmers with land on the commonage to qualify for payments. Another unusual requirement relates to the necessity for farmers to access online demonstrations and advice on good environmental practice.

Also, one would have to question how much of the maximum payment of €5,000 farmers will actually be left with after they have paid for a planner, the courses and the required actions to comply with GLAS regulations.

That being said, the CAP Pillar II package is a better result than most in the industry would have envisaged. The challenge now is for farmers to maximise the money they take from the various programmes.

Irish Independent