Fully funded CAP budget must be kept

John Bryan

Despite the breakdown in the EU budget talks last month, the expectation is that February will see a deal reached by the heads of government. The focus from our Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and the Minister for Agriculture must be to secure a fully funded CAP budget from 2014 to 2020.

IFA will maintain maximum pressure in the coming months to ensure the Single Farm Payment and Pillar II measures are retained in full. Both are vital supports for farm income, and in the case of the Rural Development Programme, our own Government must continue to provide 50:50 co-financing. As part of our ongoing campaign, 20,000 farmers marched in Dublin in October to send a strong message to the Government.

Since I took over as president, I have met thousands of farmers in every county. IFA has encouraged every farmer to have his say, and has carefully formed its policy position on CAP reform through its democratic structure at branch, county and national level.

Last week, the association's national officers and the main commodity chairmen held meetings with senior Commission officials in Brussels, at which they said a fully funded CAP Budget must be maintained.

In a year when farm incomes have fallen, it underlines the critical importance of direct payments in underpinning farm incomes.

The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, has placed further pressure on farmers with last week's Budget cuts, which were totally unfair, especially in a year where incomes and cashflow are under such pressure.

The current CAP reform is complex, and IFA's objective is twofold: we want to secure the full budget for Pillar I and Pillar II, and we want to minimise the disruption to productive farmers from any new system.

Let me be clear: IFA is fully opposed to flattening and regionalisation of the single farm payment (SFP), as this will cause major disruption of payments at farm level and undermine production in all parts of the country. Any future payment system must support active farmers, and underpin production. The total redistribution must be minimised and limited for active productive farmers.

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Any money that is redistributed due to the internal convergence of payments must be directed towards productive farmers, through funding options such as coupled payments. Funding must also be directed towards young farmers, and to productive farmers with low payments through the national reserve.

Greening cannot be used as a mechanism to flatten the SFP. It must be at a lower rate than the proposed 30pc of the SFP budget and cannot result in extra costs or bureaucracy to farmers.

There must be no redistribution of payments between Pillar I and Pillar II. The SFP is worth €1.25bn, and the Rural Development Programme, which supports farm schemes to the tune of €350m, has an important role to play.

A fully funded rural development programme must be secured to provide a well-resourced agri-environment scheme, and to support disadvantaged areas and innovation and investment on farms. National co-financing of rural development programmes in Pillar II must be set at 50pc.

Issues around a future reference year, such as 2014, must also be resolved. We want to see real simplification of the payment and cross-compliance system for farmers.

Finally, effective and properly funded market support measures must be retained to deal with price volatility.

Mr Coveney must fully engage with the Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos to advance the Irish case, and ensure the new CAP continues to support our farm family structure and active farmers.

John Bryan

IFA president

Indo Farming

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