Slashing rural development funding is a serious mistake
Agreement has been reached on the few issues remaining in CAP. "The Common Agriculture Policy gets a new direction taking better account of society's expectations," we were told recently. However, I for one am not entirely certain that Irish expectations will be met.
I also believe that it is not the fault of the Commission either, but an intense lobby that strongly resisted any shift in single farm payments (SFP) from larger to smaller farmers. In Ireland's case, I believe that most of Ireland west of the Shannon would have done better under the Commission's original proposals. What has been even more difficult to countenance is the massive cut to Pillar II of CAP.
Given all the rhetoric that accompanied the lobby about the age profile of farmers, succession and getting more young people involved in agriculture, it is indeed difficult to understand the logic of this decision.
CAP is a complex enough system to understand, but, in simple terms and in a nutshell, it is the major budget spend of the European Commission – divided in two pillars – but not two equal halves.
Pillar I mostly, made up almost exclusively of the SFP, currently holds the vast majority of the CAP money coming into Ireland, with rural development funds in Pillar 2 playing a supporting role.
For example, annual funding from Brussels for CAP will deliver €1.2bn for Pillar 1 and €313m in Pillar 2 for the period 2014 to 2020. But the total funding available for the various programmes under Pillar 2 will depend on the level of co-funding delivered by the Irish exchequer.
If funded at 47pc to 53pc, the total fund available could be €590m; but if the Government reduces its commitment to the programme then the total amount available each year could be far lower.
This rural edevelopment fund is divided into four axis which finance farm schemes such as Installation Aid and Early Retirement, as well as AEOS, REPS, forestry and LEADER.