BIG farmers earning more than €150,000 a year from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are to see their payments slashed.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said he is in favour of putting a new ceiling on payments so nobody gets more than €150,000 from the EU's single farm payment.
The move would affect around 60 big farmers and agrifood businesses in Ireland.
It has been made possible after the EU parliament this week agreed new rules that will cut payments over €150,000 by 5pc while allowing member states the more radical option of capping them altogether.
Speaking yesterday at the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Co Laois, Mr Coveney said he would make a decision within six weeks as part of the process of agreeing detailed rules for Irish farming under CAP reform measures.
"The CAP should not really be about supporting very large commercial entities," he said.
"I think it's important to send out a signal. From my perspective, I don't think farmers should be getting more than €150,000 in direct payments.
"I'm not going to make any final decisions on any issue until we have everything in place, but all I'm saying is that my personal view is that we should use the option available to us to the maximum extent. I don't think we should be paying anybody more than €150,000."
Most of the biggest Irish earners from CAP are companies such as QK Meats Ltd in Co Kildare which got €248,000 in 2012 and Kepak Farm in Co Meath which got €268,000.
However, Irish Farmers Association president John Bryan said capping farm payments was a "non-issue for Irish farm families", and the minister should be announcing 50-50 co-funding and top-up payments by the Government.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin criticised the Government for agreeing to an EU CAP budget that would cut payments to farmers by €42m a year for the next seven years.
The Government had been so obsessed with concluding a deal during Ireland's EU presidency that it had got one that reduced spending significantly, he said.
Meanwhile, it emerged that a team of Chinese pig meat buyers with billions of euro of buying power attended the Ploughing yesterday. Bord Bia hosted the buyers from six Chinese companies as it wants to grow Ireland's €37m of exports there – China is the world's biggest consumer of pork.