Farm Ireland

Thursday 18 January 2018

IFA leader responds to internal critics

The CAP reform discussions are difficult and complex. Farmers in all parts of the country are rightly worried about their impact on their viability.

The CAP reform discussions are difficult and complex. Farmers in all parts of the country are rightly worried about their impact on their viability.

Since taking over as the IFA president, I have been working in Brussels and at home to secure a fair and balanced outcome.

The first step was agreeing a CAP budget for Ireland. SFP Pillar I and the Rural Development Pillar 2 have now been secured for the next seven years.

Today, I am in Brussels again with the national chairmen of our beef, dairy, rural development, sheep and grain committees working to influence the outcome of these negotiations at a critical time.

The IFA has rejected the Ciolos proposals for flattening and regionalisation and we are totally opposed to a minimum payment which would transfer money to inactive farmers who produce nothing, and which could force regionalisation on the country.

Regionalisation means that existing Single Farm Payments within a defined area are converged and redistributed within that area.

This would be a disaster for farmers, especially along the western seaboard, and that is why the IFA is opposed to regionalisation.

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The IFA want the Single Farm Payment to go to active productive farmers.

We want to minimise cuts to productive farmers with above average Single Farm Payments, and target the redistributed monies available to active farmers with low payments, using objective criteria such as stocking rates and coupling.

This is fair and the only way that farmers will be able to justify these payments into the future.

As the Ciolos proposals stand 80,000 farmers face cuts of between 9pc and 50pc, regardless of farm size, location, enterprise, intensity or impact on viability.

This is totally unacceptable. The IFA is opposed to a 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' policy, which means undermining the viability of tens of thousands of family farms across the country.

In previous reforms, Pillar 2 Rural Development payments provided up to a third of the overall CAP funding and played a critical role in supporting active farmers in vulnerable sectors and regions.

A Pillar 2 budget of €313m per year for each of the next seven years has been secured and the IFA is now insisting that the Government match this 50:50 with top-ups.

This will deliver the budget necessary to provide targeted support in the form of disadvantaged area payments, environmental schemes, upland schemes and on-farm investment schemes to secure the viability of active farmers in vulnerable sectors and regions.

I have spoken to the thousands of farmers at meetings across the country on CAP reform over the last three years. In the past ten days, I have again attended regional meetings with up to a thousand IFA branch officers and members.

These, in turn, have re-affirmed their support for the IFA's position in trying to secure a fair and balanced outcome to these flawed and damaging reforms.

Our strong democratic structure ensures that all voices are heard, and I will continue to work to secure the best possible deal for Irish agriculture.

John Bryan is the president of the IFA and runs a suckler farm near Inistioge, Co Kilkenny.

Irish Independent