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Independent.ie

Sunday 17 December 2017

Coveney pushing for deal on CAP by April

But the minister insists on 'flexibility' for redistribution of SFP

Darragh McCullough and Declan O’Brien

A new CAP could be in place by the beginning of 2014 if a compromise deal on the reforms can be agreed before April, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has claimed.



He said the deadline of January 2014 for CAP reform could be met if a new EU budget was agreed by heads of state at a special summit in November.

However, Mr Coveney accepted that the timeframe was tight and he said an agreement on the new CAP package would have to be concluded by April if the 2014 deadline was to be met.

Ireland takes over the EU presidency in January 2013 and responsibility for delivering a deal will rest with Minister Coveney.

Speaking at a Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels yesterday, Minister Coveney reiterated the need for flexibility in the manner in which Single Farm Payment (SFP) entitlements were distributed within member states.

He claimed the commision's proposals would result in enormous economic and political difficulties for Ireland. He also called for the greening payments to be calculated on a pro-rata basis based on each farmer's individual payment and not a flat rate manner.

Last week Minister Coveney rejected the commission's proposals, claiming they would result in the transfer of €297m of Ireland's €1.3bn Single Farm Payment (SFP) allocation to farmers with entitlements lower than the national average of €270/ha.

"I've been under a lot of pressure to move to the Commissioner's position," he claimed, referring to the architect of the reforms, Dacian Ciolos.

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He described the Ciolos proposals as a reward for land ownership and said the package would not work for Ireland. He also dismissed the flat rate approach saying that it would require the regionalisation of the country. He said this would be a "nightmare" politically and administratively.

"I believe in rewarding farmers for their productivity and for the investment that they have put into their businesses over the years," he said.

The minister was speaking at a CAP information meeting in Mallow, which was one of three regional meetings held last week -- the others were in Claremorris and Kilkenny.

Minister Coveney predicted tough negotiations on CAP reform and warned farmers that Ireland would not get everything it wanted. He insisted that his proposals would support the most productive farmers, while narrowing the gap between those with the highest per hectare payments and those with the lowest.

But he faced strident criticism from farmers who argued that he hadn't gone far enough with his redistribution proposals. At the Claremorris meeting,

Roscommon farmer Vincent Roddy pointed out that the €79m redistribution of the SFP represented just 6pc of the overall total Irish allocation of almost €1.3bn.

He said the minister was not being radical enough in his approach and questioned the minister's assertion that farmers with the largest entitlements were actually the most productive.

A number of farmers at the Claremorris meeting accused the minister of protecting the "big fellows" and complained that farmers in the west had been left to depend on Pillar II schemes such as REPS and Disadvantaged Area which had been pulled or had payments cut.

They said a fairer distribution of SFP payments was required or else an improved Pillar II in which funding was guaranteed.

But the minister said that Department analysis of stocking rates had proven that "most" of the farmers who had amassed high payments on the back of high stocking levels during the last reference period between 2000 and 2002 still had highest output levels.

The minister accepted that some redistribution of the SFP was essential and that continuing to base payments off historic production was not a realistic option.

He refuted the assertion from a number of farmers at the Kilkenny meeting that any reduction in their SFP was not acceptable.

Minister Coveney pointed out that under his proposals farmers in receipt of over €1,000/ha would still get €800/ha.

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