Devil is in the detail of Ciolos's controversial new SFP regime
This week the bulk of Irish farmers expect to receive the balance of their Single Farm Payment (SFP) for 2011. The current regime continues for 2012 and 2013. What's the future for this payment after 2013? That is the hard question that is being asked.
First I state the positive vibe. The EU, in all of its constituent parts, has accepted that a SFP should continue (almost indefinitely) and that the overall EU budget, and Ireland's share of this budget, should be sustained.
Following a recent period of consultation with the public and stakeholders, the EU Commission concluded that the CAP is good for food security, it is good for activity in remote areas and, if regulated, can be good for the environment and even influence climate change.
In fact, the consultation response was so positive that you would wonder why the current regime needs changing.
Is it only because the Agriculture Commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, wants to tilt the benefits towards his native Romania and Eastern Europe?
And to think that Ireland's Maire Geoghegan-Quinn could have held the Farm Commissioner post during this crucial reform period.
The major change in Commissioner Ciolos's proposals issued in October is the imposition of a flat-rate area-based scheme.
Given Ireland's expected envelope of €1.25bn is to be spread over 4.6m hectares, this gives an average payout at about €271/ha. As this is almost identical to the overall EU average payment, it should mean no cash loss to Ireland as a whole. There will be winners and losers. Some of our top drystock farmers face alarming cuts.