Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 February 2018

Macra calls for end to historic CAP payments

'Rolling reference year is fairer'

Chairman of Macra na Feirme's agricultural affairs committee, Kieran McEvoy, favours a SFP based on farm activity
Chairman of Macra na Feirme's agricultural affairs committee, Kieran McEvoy, favours a SFP based on farm activity

RE-ELECTED to the post of chairman of Macra na Feirme's agricultural affairs committee recently, Kieran McEvoy has clear views on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The tillage and beef farmer from Emo, Portarlington, is strongly opposed to a flat-rate payment as he believes this system would discourage active farmers.

He also advocates a 'rolling reference year', rather than the historic basis, that would take note of farmers' current activity.

Here, in question and answer format, he sets out his stall on what shape he believes a new CAP should take.

Q What is Macra's proposal for the reform of the Single Farm Payment (SFP) after 2013?

A Macra has adopted a policy which would be beneficial to all active farmers in Ireland. Firstly, we are adamant that the level of payment to Ireland should be maintained and actually increased to account for inflation over time. Where our policy differs from others is that we are calling for the payment to individual farmers to move from a historic basis to a 'rolling reference year' basis whereby farmers would continue to be paid a SFP but based upon their current level of farming activity. The main motivation for this approach is that, over time, the historic basis for SFP becomes less equitable as farmers develop their enterprises and thus change from what they did in 2000-2002. Furthermore, the historic system does not take into account new entrants to farming who did not establish a SFP entitlement in the reference years.

Q Would Macra be in favour of a flat-rate payment?

A Macra is strongly opposed to either a flat-rate payment for Europe or a flat-rate payment for Ireland. Such a system would disadvantage Ireland as a whole and would provide no encouragement for active farmers. The 2020 Harvest Strategy outlines very ambitious targets which will require active farmers to be supported to ensure that Irish agriculture achieves its potential, and thus contributes to economic recovery. A system such as a flat-rate one would not provide an incentive to farmers to develop their enterprises.

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Q Is Macra's policy going to result in a lower SFP for established farmers?

A Yes and no. It will ensure the maximum payment for active farmers. Farmers who decide to scale down will ultimately receive a lower SFP as their level of activity diminishes. Macra does not agree with inactive farmers continuing to benefit from large payments, while active and progressive farmers do not get any extra reward for developing and expanding their enterprises.

Q Should all landowners be entitled to a SFP in the future?

A No, Macra believes that active farmers, not necessarily landowners, should benefit from the SFP. The main negative effect of simply paying the landowner on an historic basis is that it pushes up the cost of renting land. While landowners who wish to let out their land are entitled to a fair rent, this rent should not be inflated by a historic SFP.

Q Would an adequate national reserve address the needs of new entrants to farming?

A The experience in recent years has been that the national reserve does not provide sufficient payment to new entrants as there is no ongoing mechanism to fund a national reserve. Many of our members have been very dissatisfied with the level of SFP they were able to establish from the national reserve.

Q What does Macra mean by giving a SFP based upon a 'rolling reference year'?

A Simply, we mean that a farmer's SFP would be based upon the level of farming activity in the previous year. Each year this reference year would move forward one year, hence the term 'rolling reference year'. The benefit of this is that the reference year never goes out of date. Farmers would then be incentivised to develop sustainable progressive farming systems.

Irish Independent