SFP reform needs to be radical – Irish Rural Link
Big corporations and landowners, as well as hobby farmers, are drawing hugely disproportionate monies from the SFP funds and it is time for the Minister tackle the issue head-on, says Seamus Boland, the chief executive of Irish Rural Link (IRL).
Boland, who was speaking in the run up to the annual meeting of Irish Rural Link which takes place in Moate this Friday (May 9), says a situation where multi-millionaire businessmen like Michael O'Leary are receiving substantial monies from a fund created for full-time farmers was wrong, even though it was perfectly legal within the current system.
“Even the Queen of England is making millions annually in European farm payments which is hard to justify,” he adds.
While he accepts that the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, has said he would look at reforming the SFP, Boland is convinced that this review has all the hallmarks of ‘making haste slowly' given the opposition to any radical reform of the SFP system from those with clout at Government level.
On the vexed issue of funding rural development, which is seen as very important in other European countries but less so here, Boland wants all the rural development programmes to become the responsibility of a single minister.
The EU funding for programmes like LEADER currently comes via the Department of Agriculture, with rural development schemes administered by the Department of the Environment.
And while Boland does not want to choose between Phil Hogan and Simon Coveney, he did admit that the Department of Agriculture had a “culture” of successfully maximising the benefits for Ireland of these |EU-funded schemes.
On the question of co-funding, which will be available from the Exchequer for farming schemes at a rate of 46pc during the duration of the new CAP, Boland says the same percentage should apply “inside and outside the farm gate”.