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Ireland 'will not change SFP stance'

Ireland will not compromise its opposition to Commission proposals to introduce a flat area-based system for calculating the single farm payment (SFP), Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has insisted.

Mr Coveney said Ireland wished to be a constructive partner of the Commission on CAP reform, but he warned that there were some issues on which the country could not move.

His comments came in the wake of last week's visit by EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos.

Mr Coveney said the commissioner had "got a lot out of the visit" and now better understood Irish agriculture and the ambitious plans for growth and expansion.

"The commissioner now understands the key issues for Ireland around the [CAP reform] proposals and particularly around direct payments," Mr Coveney said.

The method to be used for calculating SFP payments remains an area of intense disagreement between Ireland and the Commission. There are also continuing differences around the greening proposal and the selection of 2014 as the reference year for payments.

Last week, Mr Ciolos reiterated his view that there was no going back to a historical reference period for calculating farmer entitlements and that any transition to a flat-rate payment had to be completed by 2019.

He said that several criteria, such as land quality or productive ability, could be used by Ireland to define various regions for different levels of payment. Ireland also had the flexibility to couple payments, he added.

However, at the IFA annual general meeting in the RDS last week, which Mr Ciolos also attended, Mr Coveney insisted that a flat-rate payment would not work for Ireland.

He warned that the introduction of it would result in a massive transfer of payments from productive farmers to non-productive land owners.

Meanwhile, ICMSA president John Comer has called for the EU formula used for the distribution of funds amongst member states to be introduced to calculate the share out of direct payments among farmers.

On the question of greening, he claimed it was vital that normal reseeding of grassland was not curtailed by this measure.

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