Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 March 2018

Farmers divided over best SFP mechanism

45pc in favour of keeping payment system but 43pc want change

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Farmers are evenly split on the preferred mechanism for calculating the single farm payment (SFP) beyond 2013.

A major survey of farmer views found that 45pc favoured the retention of the historical method of calculating the SFP but 42pc backed a flat-rate payment.

This will come as a shock to farm lobbyists and policy makers who have been pushing at the highest levels to retain the historical payment system in the up-coming CAP reform.

In other stand-out facts from the survey, 48pc of drystock farmers indicated that they were unhappy with the quality payment system (QPS) for cattle, while 60pc of dairymen said they intended to expand milk production next year.

The Farming Independent questioned 1,008 farmers over the three days of the Ploughing Championships in Athy, Co Kildare.

The survey found that large farm owners and dairy farmers were the staunchest supporters of the historical reference period approach for calculating the SFP post-2013.

Fifty-three percent of those farming more than 200ac wanted the historical approach to be maintained, while just 33pc opted for the flat-rate system .The undecided camp totalled 14pc.

Just 39pc of farmers with less than 100ac wanted the historical reference period approach continued, 47pc supported a move to a flat-rate system, while some 14pc were undecided.

Also Read

Looking at the issue by sector rather than by size, exactly half of all dairy farmers surveyed backed the historical method.

Thirty-nine percent of milk suppliers and 44pc of drystock farmers backed the flat-rate system. Tillage farmers were fairly evenly split with 46pc backing the flat-rate system.

Close to one-third of drystock farmers believe that the QPS for cattle is fair, but 48pc were dissatisfied with it.

In relation to the beef grid, just 3pc of the 424 beef and sheep farmers questioned classed the QPS as 'very fair', while 26pc said it was 'fair'.

However, 28pc of the drystock farmers said the QPS was 'unfair', with a further 20pc maintaining it was 'very unfair'. The remaining 23pc said the payment system was 'neither fair nor unfair'.

Farmers opposed to the new payment system said it was too complicated. However, supporters of the initiative argued that some mechanism had to be put in place to reward quality beef producers.

Overall, 48pc of all the farmers questioned came out against the payment grid, 26pc supported it, while the remaining 26pc were undecided.

Five percent of the total sample classed the QPS as 'fair', 21pc said it was 'very fair', 28pc said it was 'unfair' and 20pc claimed it was 'very unfair'.

When asked about their intentions for the coming 12 months, 60pc of dairy farmers said they planned to expand production.

However, 45pc of milk suppliers doubted that the 50pc increase in milk output set out in the Food Harvest 2020 initiative was achievable.

Overall, 41pc of farmers said they aimed to increase farm production during the next 12 months, 46pc said they were not going to expand output, while 13pc were undecided.

Meanwhile, IFA national livestock chairman Michael Doran has called on the factories to make changes to restore confidence in the QPS.

"IFA has consulted widely and proposed a list of changes. These include no cuts to the price for fat class, having the in-spec quality bonus extended to cover more sub-classes and changes to the base price."

See pages 12 and 13 for full survey results

Irish Independent