Farmers making management decisions based on a 2014 reference year are taking a big gamble, a leading Department of Agriculture official has warned.
Paud Evans, chief principal officer at the Department, cautioned that "2014 may not be the final solution for Ireland" and advised against making decisions "based on what's on the table now".
"This is still only a proposal," he told last Friday's Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) AGM.
Mr Evans was reacting to comments by agricultural advisers about how the level of speculation among farmers about the reference year was driving a surge in entitlements and land trading.
"It's like one big bookie's office at the moment," said one adviser. "We need clarity on a reference year because all we have is speculation, based on hearsay and headlines in the newspapers."
Mairead McGuinness MEP (right) echoed Mr Evans comment, saying farmers were gambling on a 2014 reference year.
"At this stage, the 2014 year is out there, it's still in the proposals, and it's very hard to put the genie back in the bottle," she said.
"But I couldn't rule out the possibility that member states might have different reference years," she cautioned.
Ms McGuinness said there was a real problem in trying to modify peoples' behaviour.
"Everyone wants to be on the right side of it [the reference year]," she said.