Farm Ireland

Sunday 22 July 2018

MEP pushes for a phased SFP move

LOOKING FORWARD: Irish MEPS Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher, Marian Harkin and Liam Alyward with MEP George Lyon, meet Brendan Smith TD to discuss the future of the CAP
LOOKING FORWARD: Irish MEPS Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher, Marian Harkin and Liam Alyward with MEP George Lyon, meet Brendan Smith TD to discuss the future of the CAP

Declan O'Brien and Majella O'Sullivan

Any move away from the historic means of establishing farmers' Single Farm Payment (SFP) entitlements must be done on a phased basis, a leading member of the European Parliament's agriculture committee has insisted.

George Lyon will draft a key report for the parliament, setting out their priorities for the upcoming reform of CAP. The Liberal Democrat MEP, a former president of the National Farmers' Union in Scotland, said a sudden scrapping of the current historic mechanism for calculating the SFP was not a realistic option.

Mr Lyon pointed out that 12 out of the original 15 EU member states used reference years to set their SFP entitlements. He suggested that moving away from this system would take several years and that an area-based payment might be phased in between 2013 and 2020.

The Scottish MEP predicted that this process would involve the two systems running side by side for a period, with an increasing proportion of farmers' payments being delivered on a per-hectare basis as time elapsed.

He insisted that any new mechanism for setting the SFP had to use criteria that reflected cost of production in individual member states and also the payment received by countries under Pillar 2 of the CAP. He added that the area of land farmed in each state had to be established with certainty.

Mr Lyon led a delegation of MEPs who met with Agriculture Minister, Brendan Smith, and farmer organisations last week. The delegation also included Marian Harkin and Fianna Fail representatives Liam Aylward and Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher.

"The key message from these meetings has been the need for a strong CAP. With €1.8bn coming in each year there is a strong desire to see that continue," Mr Lyon said.

"The threat of substantial cuts would clearly be a major threat to Irish agriculture and could result in job losses and land abandonment," he added

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"It was made crystal clear also about the issue of ancillary jobs, which amount to roughly 20pc of the economy. I am a farmer and I understand acutely the issues raised by the farmers' unions and the Irish Government today and will take this into account in drafting my report."

Mr Aylward, Mr Gallagher and Ms Harkin all said that it was vital that the SFP was protected at all costs, and that CAP funding was protected and defended in the upcoming EU budget negotiations.

Meanwhile, the IFA's man in Brussels, Michael Treacy, has warned that garnering support for the historically based SFP will be a hard sell.

The influential Brussels-based farm lobbyist said other EU member states did not support this system and neither did they want a more recent reference period for calculating the SFP.

He told a farming seminar at the Lismullin Institute, Co Meath, that there was increasing pressure on all states to move to a premium per-hectare basis.

He said the most likely scenario was that each country would get an envelope and, if there was an element of co-funding, this would create problems for Irish farmers.

"We're now at a critical stage. By the end of this year, proposals will have been made and when they're on paper they're very hard to shift," Mr Treacy said.

Speaking of the new Commissioner-designate Dacian Ciolos, Mr Treacy said Mr Ciolos had ambitions to become Romania's president, and would be pushing farm supports over to Eastern Europe.

Irish Independent