The convergence of CAP payments to a single unit value per hectare is an issue that has divided farmers and poisoned the debate on agricultural policy spanning the last two reforms of the Common Agricultural policy (CAP).
This historic inequality must be comprehensively addressed as a priority in the upcoming reform, as this single action would give an economic stimulus to the majority of farmers that would be felt across the rural economy.
The higher-level objective of the 2013 CAP reform was to move to equal payments per hectare by 2019. A derogation was granted to this to allow some member states, including Ireland, to maintain historic payments and only achieve partial convergence. Despite this 19 of the 27 member states have achieved full convergence by 2019.
As we move into the final stages of this reform with the formation of our national CAP Strategic Plan - which will for the first time encompass Pillar l & Pillar ll - there must be a clear trajectory set to abolish the historic entitlement system by 2027.
This would facilitate the optimum payment structure of a flat-rate payment per hectare, complemented by a redistributive payment on the first hectares that would bolster smallholding and insulate those on high payments per ha with a small number of hectares.
This would also offer substantial simplification, transparency and fairness.
There are those who maintain that convergence will impact negatively on the most productive sectors, but the stats simply do not bear this out. Data from the DAFM clearly demonstrated that there is negligible difference in output irrespective of the levels of support received, which explodes the myth that the farmers on higher payments were or are more "productive".
Historic payments are based on units of livestock production from two decades ago and are irrelevant today. The policy objectives of CAP have changed much since then, with much more focus on environmental concerns and the provision of public goods.
In addition, since 2003, payments have been decoupled from production, and since then have been regarded as income support in return for complying with basic environmental standards with no link to current or past production.
In this context, there is no justification for payment based on historic data; to do so risks undermining the credibility of the entire programme.
This corrosive issue has wider implications for the future prosperity of all farmers irrespective of current level of payment. In unity, there is strength, but this ongoing inequality has sown much disunity and resulted in the splintering of the farming lobby, which has been exploited by others.
Farm leaders - notably silent on this matter thus far - who have any moral compass, belief in social justice, and looking to bring farmers together to demand a fair return from the market place for their produce should be at the forefront of this campaign to deal with this legacy issue and consign this divisive matter to the history books.
Luke Flanagan is the Independent MEP for Midlands-North-west