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Farm payments stance 'leaves Ireland isolated'

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IFA members from Co Meath erecting signs at the entrance of Teagasc Grange, to welcome Commissioner Ciolos, Minister Simon Coveney and the EU Agricultural Ministers to the to the beef research station.

IFA members from Co Meath erecting signs at the entrance of Teagasc Grange, to welcome Commissioner Ciolos, Minister Simon Coveney and the EU Agricultural Ministers to the to the beef research station.

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IFA members from Co Meath erecting signs at the entrance of Teagasc Grange, to welcome Commissioner Ciolos, Minister Simon Coveney and the EU Agricultural Ministers to the to the beef research station.

Ireland is becoming increasingly isolated in its refusal to adopt the EU's proposals to flatten farm payments.

Spain and Italy have been the key allies of Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, in opposing the internal convergence model being pushed by the EU Commission in CAP reform negotiations.

However, sources close to the ongoing negotiations said that both Spain and Italy were now looking at the regionalisation model as a way to meet EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos' demands for a "meaningful" flattening of payments.

Informal meetings of both EU farm ministers and MEPs took place in Dublin yesterday, with an additional meeting of the 27 Member State farm ministers this morning.

Commissioner Ciolos (pictured right), who flew into Dublin on Sunday evening with his top officials, is adamant that a new minimum payment be introduced in these reforms.

However, in a comment aimed squarely at the Irish administration, he said that "very few" Member States were refusing to show any flexibility in moving closer to this outcome.

"I cannot understand why some Member States cannot achieve internal convergence, especially when the Commission has provided so much flexibility," Commissioner Ciolos said.

"We have already moved on from our first proposal of a completely flattened payment, and allowed member states the options of regionalisation and coupling [to limit the amount of redistribution]," he told journalists in Dublin on Sunday.

"We cannot accept that [by 2019] there may still be some member states where one farmer gets €50/ha and another several hundred per hectare. There are no arguments to explain this difference for what are decoupled direct payments," the commissioner added.

"For the commission, this is not negotiable, [so] we need a minimum threshold."

Commissioner Ciolos said that he had the support of the majority of MEPs on his stance on the convergence of payments.

A new concept that emerged out of yesterday's meetings is the idea of limiting to a given percentage the maximum that any individual farmer could lose.

The IFA is redoubling its efforts to block the commissioner's proposals, with a protest organised today at Dublin Castle and placards lining the route taken by delegations to Teagasc's Grange research farm yesterday.

The IFA maintains that farmers here totally oppose flattening, regionalisation and the concept of a minimum payment.

"It's time for Minister Coveney to pin down his approximation model for Irish farmers, which he claims will limit losses to 8-10pc," said IFA president John Bryan.

However, another farm group, calling themselves the United Farmers' Association, said that farmers with payments under €250/ha should not participate in any protest because they would be depriving themselves of their rightful entitlements.

"The UFA is supportive of the commissioner's proposals," a statement from the organisation said.

"The group-think of farm leadership here shamelessly promotes the doctrine that only large farmers are active and productive and are therefore entitled to most of the agricultural subsidies.

"This is a policy of naked greed."

While the meetings in Dublin during the last three days have been billed as 'informal' talks, the Commission has insisted that they are a vital step in securing an agreement before the end-of-June deadline.

"We need to reduce the outstanding issues to a maximum of 10 by the end of June," explained Commissioner Ciolos. "These meetings establish the landing zones on sensitive issues for member states."

The commissioner insisted that the final landing zone on internal convergence would have to be "at least equivalent to external convergence". He also maintained that he was already close to securing a deal on greening.

Irish Independent