We asked the main farming organisations where they stand on EU proposals to cut large farm payments.
Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has said his Department would engage with all of the farm organisations on all the issues relating to CAP, including whether it takes into account salaries and the convergence issue.
In addition, he said they would be anxious to get written submissions on their opinions on proposals such as those relating to ‘genuine’ farmers.
However, Mr Creed said they believe including salaries would be unworkable based on the materials they have seen from the Commission.
“It is not a defence of one farmer or another, it is the practicalities of it,” he said as he attended the ICSA AGM in Portlaoise.
According to IFA President Joe Healy, convergence (to even out payments) is a type of capping. He also said that if there was a cut off at €70,000 it would mean an extra €170 approximately for every farmer.
"The views we‘ve got from farmers is that the whole area of the genuine farmer and convergence, if that’s going to create more unviable farmers, we think it should only be upwards convergence."
But he said the organisation has not taken a line on the €100,000 capping of payments.
"We are not saying we were in favour or not in favour."
He said that recent farmer meetings the IFA has held has heard that many farms have two families trying to make a living.
"Farmers should be able to pay €60,000 for labour units and after that make sure it goes to a genuine farmer who is depending on the land to live."
Healy said it is more important that farm subsidies go to what he called "genuine farmers", rather than beef barons or sheiks.
INHFA says its position is for a maximum payment in Pillar 1 of €60,000 with no allowance for labour units to be used to bring up the payment.
It says the European Commission's proposals talks of a €60,000 limit but it's really a €100,000 limit as the proposals envisages a degressive cut to payments that stand between €60,000 and €100,000.
"This is further complicated by an allowance of labour units which will limit any potential cut."
The INHFA says its position is very simple - it believes no farmer should receive in excess of €60,000 in Pillar one payments and that there should be full convergence by 2026.
The President of ICMSA Pat McCormack said his organisation supports the cap proposed by the Commission but not the salary exemption.
“In relation to the capping of payments, ICMSA supports the principle of the cap in payments proposed by the EU Commission and we are clear that exemptions to such a cap should only be considered in very specific and justifiable cases - if ever.
"The idea of a salary exemption is, in ICMSA’s opinion, unworkable and would be open to manipulation thus making it unfair. The key point in relation to payments, and the one to which every other consideration is secondary, is that – going forward - they must actually benefit the person farming the land.
"That is most certainly not the case at present where the value of entitlements is built into the price of rented land, a distortion that is simply unsustainable”, said Pat McCormack.
General Secretary of the ICSA Eddie Punch said there should be no salary exemption.
"It would be absurd if the average farmer continues to get €9,000 and they are continuing to be cut when someone could avoid a €100,000 cap by saying they have a few guys working for them, so they should get €160,000.
"We don’t have enough money to pay a wage to self employed farmer out of CAP and in the drystock sector it is a wage.
"With convergence people who got €25,000 10 years ago are getting around €18,000/€19,000 as they are converged downwards.
"If they want to hire on extra labour, hurrah but it can’t be taken out of pot that can’t even pay a self employed farmer more than €9,000," he said.
Department of Agriculture
Colm Hayes, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Agriculture recently told a meeting of the Oireachtas Agriculture Coommittee that while the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, has said we are open to the capping of direct payments, it does not agree with the mandatory requirement to deduct salaries and labour as part of this process as we outlined previously to this committee.
"We believe it will create an unnecessary and significant administrative burden on member states that goes against the spirit of modernising and simplifying the CAP.
"Our priority every year, particularly when it comes to Pillar 1 payments, is to get them out at the earliest possible date. We always do the usual 16 October deadline.
"If we must start factoring in individual P60s, P45s and all sorts of other factors, it will bring about a complexity nobody wants to see," he said.