Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

More farmers would gain by switch to flat rate SFP

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

More farmers would benefit from a move to a flat rate method of calculating the Single Farm Payment (SFP) than would lose out, a leading Department of Agriculture official has admitted.

Aidan O'Driscoll, assistant secretary general with the Department, said the Commission's current flat rate proposals would lead to 76,400 Irish farmers receiving increased SFP payments, while 56,683 would get less.

The SFP winners could be up on average by €4,000, while the losers would see their payments drop by €5,300 on average.

However, he warned that the losers would be the most productive farmers and that some would see SFPs substantially cut.

Mr O'Driscoll was speaking at a CAP briefing to members of the Agricultural Science Association on Friday.

He said that Ireland should not only concentrate on Pillar 1 (direct payments) funding, but also examine Pillar 2 (rural development) funding in its negotiations with the Commission.

Mr O'Driscoll maintained that flexibility in how Ireland will be allowed to distribute single farm payments from 2014 onwards would be a crucial part of the Department of Agriculture's negotiations with the European Commission in the coming months.

Mairead McGuinness MEP told the conference that Ireland needs a formula that will balance the winners and losers and that the way funding is distributed between member states could be the way to do it.

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"Ireland moved early to decouple payments in the last reforms and can't be penalised for that by being forced to accept a short transition period to a flat rate payment," she said.

She added that the footprint of the EU Court of Auditors was heavily imprinted in the Commission's reform proposals, particularly the move towards a more uniform payment across member states and farmers. Ms McGuinness said the European Parliament would put forward amendments to the Commission's proposals in early 2012.

Meanwhile, IFA deputy president Eddie Downey said the Commission's proposal to use 30pc of the single farm payment for greening measures and allocate it on a flat per hectare basis would cause a significant reduction of payments immediately for productive farmers with higher entitlements.

"It's not clear what environmental benefits will be gained from the greening measures. Yet they will undermine viable businesses and must be reduced," he said. For more CAP reform analysis, see page 15.

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