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Saturday 16 February 2019

New CAP fears: 'Intensive farmers on dryer soils allowed drive on.... while farmers in the west expected to protect the environment'

Hughie Duignan from Mount Allen, Co Roscommon pictured at a recent INHFA protest outside the Department of Agriculture offices in Drumshambo, Co Leitrim
Hughie Duignan from Mount Allen, Co Roscommon pictured at a recent INHFA protest outside the Department of Agriculture offices in Drumshambo, Co Leitrim
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Concerns around new conditions that farmers will be obliged to adhere to in order to get their Basic Payment, have been raised by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA)

INHFA National President Colm O’Donnell stated that these conditions which could be included under the latest reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) “if implemented will have major implications for many farmers in the west that are farming on wetlands or peat lands, often referred to as carbon rich soils.”

O’Donnell then added that “how these CAP proposals could easily lead to a situation where intensive farmers on dryer soils would be allowed drive on and increase production while farmers on the hills and lowland farmers on wetter soils would be expected to protect the environment and take on the full burden of climate change through carbon sequestration measures.”

All of this he continued “for the same or possibly less money than they are receiving now through all their CAP payments with the added risk of losing these payments if they don’t meet the conditions set out,” he said.

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association are holding a rally in the Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny on Friday, 25 of January starting to highlight the proposed changes.

“As a relatively new organisation which was formed due to the dissatisfaction with the last CAP deal we are determined that we have our say this time round.”

On the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) which has undergone a full review O’Donnell stressed the importance of ensuring how the payment bands needs to reflect the constraint.

This he continued has being the consistent view of the organisation stating “how the review needs to address this.”

On 1 June 2018, the European Commission presented legislative proposals on the common agricultural policy (CAP) beyond 2020.

The Commission proposes that funding for the CAP is moderately reduced – by around 5% – due to less contributions, with a future union of 27 members.

To ensure stability and predictability, income support will remain an essential part of the CAP. Part of this, basic payments will continue to be based on the farm’s size in hectares. However, the future CAP wants to prioritise small and medium-sized farms and encourage young farmers to join the profession. This is why the Commission proposes:

  • a higher level of support per hectare for small and medium-sized farms
  • to reduce the share of direct payments received above €60,000 per farm and to limit payments at €100,000 per farm, with a view to ensure a fairer distribution of payments
  • a minimum of 2% of direct support payments allocated to each EU country will be set aside for young farmers, complemented by financial support under rural development and measures facilitating access to land and land transfers
  • EU countries having to ensure that only genuine farmers receive support

Howver in its proposal, the European Commission sets high ambitions on environmental and climate change. Mandatory requirements include:

  • preserving carbon-rich soils through protection of wetlands and peatlands
  • obligatory nutrient management tool to improve water quality, reduce ammonia and nitrous oxide levels
  • crop rotation instead of crop diversification

Farmers will have the possibility to contribute further and be rewarded for going beyond mandatory requirements.

EU countries will develop voluntary eco-schemes to support and incentivise farmers to observe agricultural practices beneficial for the climate and the environment.

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