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Sunday 20 May 2018

Hogan warns 'hobby and sofa farmers' EU payments will be scrutinised in reform

Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

European Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan has given his biggest indication that people not actively engaged in agricultural activity will be excluded from EU payments in new reforms.

Addressing the Seanad yesterday, Commissioner Hogan also gave reassurance to part-time farmers that they will not be excluded from payments in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

“These people are actively involved in farming the land.

“Only those people who engage in hobby farming, or sofa farming as we call it, have reason to be scrutinised in respect of getting money from the CAP for not being engaged in agriculture,” he said.

The Commissioner also addressed the hot topic amongst farmers of capping payments to farmers.

At the moment there is a cap of €150,000 on payments in Ireland.

Mr Hogan said the Commission will be proposing a €60,000 cap for all farmers in the European Union a proposal which the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said he supports.

“Whatever I propose it will be a matter for the Member States and the European Parliament to agree.

“We can only make a proposal but I am concerned about this issue.

“Whatever savings can be made from the proceeds of this cap can be kept within the member state and redistributed to small and medium-size farmers to ensure that it limits the impact of any particular reduction in budgetary terms for those farmers who need it,” he said.

During the hearing many Senators raised concerns over threats to the future funding of the CAP. Mr Hogan said Senators were right to be concerned about the budget adding that available funds will be down €12 billion because the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union, and many member states have already agreed at European Council level that they want to see some programmes such as security, migration and defence co-ordinated.

“It is estimated that this will require another €12 billion over seven years.

“In the absence of additional contributions from member states and new sources of additional income for the European Union, there will be a cut in expenditure.

“The challenge is for us to get the balance right on where those cuts should be,” he said.

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