Gardeners more of a priority for Government than farmers, claims IFA
Gardeners and green keepers are now a greater priority for policy makers than productive and commercial farmers, the IFA has claimed.
The association's comments followed the summary rejection of IFA calls for "upward only" convergence of CAP direct payments by the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed.
Minister Creed said he strongly supported the concept of convergence and dismissed IFA demands that farmers with higher than average payments be protected from further cuts to their CAP entitlements.
While Minister Creed conceded that allowances will have to be made for farmers with relatively high per-acre entitlements but low overall payments, he ruled out IFA demands for 'upwards only' convergence.
"I don't mean that, as some would say, convergence is an upwards only journey; convergence is what convergence is, and I believe in moving forward along that road," Minister Creed said.
Pointing out that 60pc convergence will be achieved by 2020 and that the target of 75pc convergence has been agreed for the next CAP, Minister Creed told the AGM of the INHFA that Ireland may decide to go further following the upcoming "consultative process" with the farm organisations.
However, the IFA warned that further cuts to farmers' CAP payments as a result of convergence endangered the viability of family farms. "Everyone accepts that genuine farmers with low per hectare payments need to be increased. However, the issue is how that is funded," the IFA stated.
"Taking it off genuine farmers with per hectare payments above the average who might well have a relatively small number of hectares is a non-runner and will just make more farmers unviable," the association claimed.
"The minister needs to be focussed on getting an increase in the CAP budget to fund convergence. He also needs to stop telling us that trying to define a genuine farmer is too complex," the IFA maintained.
"While it won't be easy, the provision in the draft regulation sets a direction of travel and the minister needs to be prepared to look at this with a view to ensuring that CAP funding gets to 'real' farmers. This is where the focus needs to be rather than taking money off farmers who have already taken a hit in the previous reform.
"The genuine commercial farmer needs to be defended because at the moment they would be forgiven for thinking that it's a nation of gardeners and green keepers that is wanted rather than productive farmers."
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