Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

Farmers split over share out of s1.2bn Single Farm Payments

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Sharp differences on the level of redistribution of the single farm payment (SFP) have emerged over the weekend.

The main farm organisations insisted that current proposals could decimate payments to commercial farmers, but farmers attending a series of meetings in the west demanded a more equitable share-out of the country's €1.2bn SFP fund.

A CAP meeting in Sligo on Sunday evening was told that farmers would oppose any agreement that continued to deliver huge payments to a minority of recipients. There were also calls at the meeting for west of Ireland farmers to withhold levies from farm organisations that did not represent their views.

The IFA has roundly condemned proposals from last week's Council of Farm Ministers meeting in Brussels that would see the front-loading of payments on what were described as the "first hectares" and also the suggestion of a minimum payment on eligible land.

IFA president John Bryan claimed that 75,000 of the 130,000 SFP recipients would face losses of between 30pc and 40pc of their payment by 2019 if the proposals touted in Brussels last week were accepted.


Mr Bryan accused Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney of being "rolled over" at the Council of Ministers meeting and of rowing back on commitments made to farmers that cuts to the SFP of individual farmers would be kept to a minimum.

"IFA is insisting that monies available for redistribution are targeted at active farmers using objective criteria, and not to landlords and inactive or hobby farmers," Mr Bryan said.

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"The Minister's proposals are effectively capitalising SFP payments into land ownership rather than production, which will be a disaster for land mobility and growth," he added.

"Minister Coveney is being rolled over and is conceding way too much in a bid to secure an EU deal in these negotiations.

"Irish farmers expect him to toughen his stance and defend their interests now, in advance of any final discussions," Mr Bryan said.

He said the minister appeared to have "thrown in the towel" on coupled payments for the suckler sector, while objective criteria on the greening proposals seemed to have been forgotten.

But Mr Coveney hit back, insisting that nothing had as yet been agreed and that it would be later this month before the Council of Ministers agreed a final position ahead of negotiations with the EU Parliament and the EU Commission. The minister said it was his intention to protect payments to active farmers in the negotiation but he pointed out that a fairer redistribution of payments was central to the reform process and that farmers on marginal land and with very low payments had to be catered for in any new framework.

At the meeting in Sligo, Donie Shine of the Farm Family Rights Association told farmers that Pillar I was "the only show in town" and that all farmers deserved "a fair share" of the available funds.

Ireland West MEP Marian Harkin warned that talk of different payment levels on marginal and productive land could be construed as an effort to introduce a policy of regionalisation.

Ms Harkin said that such a move should be opposed by farmers in the west.



Irish Independent

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