Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

Ciolos's CAP vision begins to take hold

Greening and flat rate payment stay centre stage in latest leak

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The latest leaked document on CAP reform from Brussels confirms that farm Comissioner Ciolos's vision of greener, flat-rate farm payments is one step closer to becoming reality.

Despite warnings from farm organisations about the damage the proposals will cause to to farm incomes, it now appears the Commission is focusing on ironing out the details before Dacian Ciolos officially launches the package on October 12.

Under the proposals, the SFP is to be replaced by a Single Area Payment (SAP) scheme in 2014. This will then become a reference year for future payments.

National and regional per hectare payments will then be calculated using this as a baseline.

It has been suggested that farmer payments for 2014 would initially be calculated on a mix of the historic and area-based methods, with a transition on a phased basis to a total flat rate payment by January 1, 2019.

The latest document closely follows the proposals included in previous drafts.

These include:

•The two-pillar structure of CAP is to be retained, with member states given more leeway to co-finance Pillar II, which mainly governs rural development.

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•Environmental payments, or 'greening', to become an integral part of a farm payments package, with farmers required to carry out such practices as crop diversification, maintenance of permanent pasture or other measures to secure additional payments which will account for 30pc of the total entitlement.

•Payments to individual farmers and farm businesses to be capped, although account will be taken of the employment units provided. Payments are to be capped at €300,000, with a claw-back of 20-70pc introduced on a sliding scale for payments between €150,000 and €300,000.

•Targeted payments amounting to 2pc of the national ceiling to assist young farmers.

•Up to 3pc of the national ceiling to fund a national reserve.

•Lump sum payment of €500- 1,000 instead of the SAP for small holders.

However, in a change from earlier drafts which will hit arable farms, the document proposes an increase from 5pc to 7pc in the area of eligible land, excluding grassland, which must be set aside as ecological focus areas.

These are either areas left fallow, planted with forestry or marked off as buffer strips.

Meanwhile, the draft document has proposed that market measures such as intervention, aid to private storage and export refunds should be financed via a €3.5bn 'emergency reserve', which for the first time will fall outside Pillar I of the CAP.

ICSA national president Gabriel Gilmartin has strongly attacked the proposals for a reformed CAP. He claimed that a flat-rate payment might sound good in theory but it won't work in practice.

"The Commission's obsession with a uniform flat rate is simply unworkable and the timeframe of achieving it by 2019 would completely destroy the viability of too many active farmers," Mr Gilmartin said.

He added that the key problem was that the average payment per eligible hectare for Ireland, which is €270/ha, was too low for the vast bulk of committed and active farmers who typically depended on current payments in the order of €360-€600.

IFA president John Bryan slammed the decision to make 2014 a reference year. He said the move would cause massive disruption in the farm sector.

Mr Bryan called on Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to act to secure a flexible payment system that will ensure the SFP in Ireland is targeted towards active and productive farmers.

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