Louise Hogan: Rabble-rousing IFA can't have it every way on EU payments


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured alongside IFA President Joe Healy at their headquarters. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured alongside IFA President Joe Healy at their headquarters. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Louise Hogan

Sometimes it can be easy to grab headlines. Beef barons, sheikhs and Coolmore Stud in one soundbite is enough to catch anyone's eye.

At the recent IFA AGM, everyone took a lashing from the outspoken Taoiseach to keyboard warriors as hot topics from climate change to the new CAP budget came in for scrutiny. There was an echo of Leo Varadkar's men and women "who got up early in the morning" when Joe Healy stated that CAP direct payments should be for the farmers "who are up in the middle of the night".

Warming to the theme, he added that sheikhs, Coolmore Stud and beef barons should not benefit from large CAP payments as they cannot be considered "genuine farmers".

Yet, that's where the waters get a little muddier.

For example, take the EU's proposals on capping CAP payments under the proposed post-2020 reforms.

Under the Commission proposals, direct payments above €60,000 would face cuts, while there would be a maximum overall limit of €100,000.

All of the major farmer organisations here are in favour of the proposals, but in the IFA's case there is a caveat.

It is not opposed to the Commission's capping proposal, but it is in favour of retaining payments over €60,000 in cases where there is more than one member of the family working full-time on the farm.

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Will that really help the thousands of small or middle-of-the-road farmers who make up the IFA's core membership and are surviving on a far more modest CAP payment than those in the €60,000 plus league?

The IFA says that its stance would support family farms with two or more generations making a living from the land.

Yet, such salary exemptions would also benefit the aforementioned sheikhs and studs.


Approximately 1,000 farmers in total would be impacted if the Commission did move on payments over €60,000, and while the number is small, the Commission proposal would free up some funds for farmers in real need.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed spoke frankly on the issue when he attended the ICSA AGM, also held last week. He raised questions about the practicalities of trying to manage the paperwork on a salary exemption.

That's not even mentioning the thoughts of trying to define a 'genuine farmer' which has officials breaking out in a cold sweat.

The big picture is that the importance of CAP cannot be overemphasised, particularly against the backdrop of Brexit and a growing awareness of how climate change will shape the farming agenda.

With these challenges looming, the minister rightly called for a sense of solidarity and unity among the farming organisations.

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