Farm Ireland

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Flat rate gets the nod in ICMSA poll

A majority of ICMSA members want to switch to a flat-rate payment system, according to a survey of more than 300 members.

The farm organisation hired Dublin-based analysts Behaviour and Attitudes to interview their members to establish their views on everything from credit to how they will vote in the upcoming presidential elections.

On the key issue of reform of the Single Farm Payment (SFP), the survey's findings are very different from the stance taken by the IFA, which is actively campaigning to retain the historical basis for calculating the SFP.

Only one third of farmers surveyed said that they would prefer to continue with the historical payment system. Some 45pc want a flat rate payment system to be introduced with a top-up for active farmers.

However, this figure rises to 59pc when farmers who either want a gradual or immediate introduction of the flat rate payment system were included. Five per cent of farmers surveyed did not know what system they would prefer.

The support for a historical system was even weaker among part-time farmers surveyed, with only 21pc of this group wanting to stick with the status quo. Support for the historical system was also lower among farmers who specialised in dairying compared to those who had dairy and other enterprises on their farms. Unsurprisingly, the majority of those surveyed believe that the vast bulk of the funding available for the SFP should go to the active farmers, with a proportionate reduction to those with off-farm incomes.

The survey also asked farmers how they felt about re-coupling a payment for suckler cows.

Only 14pc of respondents said that they would be in favour of reducing the SFP to fund a suckler cow payment.

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In fact, the survey found that support for the introduction of a suckler cow payment at the expense of the SFP never exceeded 20pc, regardless of whether the farmers were fulltime or part-time, dairy, mixed or owners or partners.

ICMSA president Jackie Cahill said the differing views expressed by farmers would make it difficult to design a fair policy. "The survey demonstrates that a special provision for active farmers must be inserted in any new system," he said.

"It also shows that in excess of 80pc of the farmers surveyed were against any reduction in overall SFP rates in order to fund a coupled suckler cow payment," Mr Cahill said.

"This latter result points to a major area of possible disagreement. Dairy farmers or other full-time farmers who are likely to face reductions anyway surely cannot be asked to absorb further reductions so that funds can be found for coupled payments," he insisted.

"The ICMSA believes that there's no room for hedging around on this one. We are absolutely against any reductions in average SFP payments to fund coupled payments."

Indo Farming