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Eco Schemes are not an attempt to cap production — McConalogue

Minister insists he is looking at additional measures to ensure more farmers qualify

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Charlie McConalogue at Castlerea Mart in Co Roscommon

Charlie McConalogue at Castlerea Mart in Co Roscommon

Charlie McConalogue at Castlerea Mart in Co Roscommon

The new Eco Schemes measure under the next CAP is not an effective cap on production, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said, adding that he is looking at adding additional measures which will ensure more farmers can qualify.

Farmers must choose two out of five measures to qualify for the direct income support – where 25pc of farmers' direct payments will now be allocated (€297 million annually).

The actions currently proposed are extensive livestock production, limiting chemical nitrogen use, planting native trees, the use of a GPS controlled fertiliser spreader, and non-productive areas and landscape features.

However, several members of the Joint Oireachtas Agriculture Committee have urged Agriculture House to extend the list of measures this echoed comments from farmers during the Minister's CAP consultation tour which he completed in Castlerea Mart in Co Roscommon last week.

Committee chairman Jackie Cahill (Fianna Fáil) said: "It's hard to understand why a country like Holland can have over 20 measures on eco schemes and that we're restricted to just five.

"This is farmers money, and if a high percentage of farmers are not able to qualify, in my view, it would be a disaster."

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said the use of GPS controlled fertiliser spreaders won’t appeal to small farmers and he said nurseries are concerned about shortfalls in native tree supplies due to the forestry licence crisis.

However, addressing farmers in Castlerea, some of which said the Eco Schemes proposed were an 'effective cap on production', the Minister said this was not the objective.

He reassured farmers that he wants to reward existing practices at farm level, which are beneficial from an environmental point of view.

Addressing some of the specific scheme proposals, he said over half of farmers already qualify for the extensive stocking rate, reduced fertiliser usage and non-productive area measures.

However, he conceded Eco Schemes would be a 'particular challenge' for those farming intensively and said his Department are looking at further options for those farmers.

Following an eight-week consultation tour visiting livestock marts in every county, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, has thanked farmers for attending and contributing so meaningfully at the meetings.

"This is one of the most evolutionary CAP programmes and it is critical that every farmer has the opportunity to feed into that discussion. Central to my strategy around this CAP is working to protect farm family incomes while also stepping up our ambitions on climate action and biodiversity.

"Every farmer's view is central to this CAP consultation as it is their CAP.

"While time is tight, there is still time for farmers to have their voices heard in this hugely historic CAP negotiation."

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