Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 March 2018

Smith seeks SFP payments debate

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

IRELAND may have to examine alternatives to the historic basis for calculating the Single Farm Payment (SFP), Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith has suggested.

Minister Smith pointed out changes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post 2013 would inevitably flow from the EU-wide discussions process, which is likely to gather pace this year.

CAP funding will also be strongly influenced by EU budget talks, which are due to start this year.

Minister Smith said the manner in which the SFP is calculated in Ireland is already in the spotlight and that the issue will have to be addressed.

"There is huge pressure for changes to be made to the historic basis used to calculate Single Farm Payments and I believe we owe it to ourselves to at least examine the alternatives," Minster Smith maintained.


The minister's comments will cause concern among farm organisations who claim that defending the current method for calculating SFP payments must be a key priority for Ireland in the upcoming negotiations.

The SFP is paid on a per hectare basis in many eastern European countries and the Commission wants this system extended to other member states.

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Minister Smith repeated his view that the CAP should retain its current structure with two 'pillars': the Single Farm Payments and market management measures in pillar 1, and the rural development schemes in pillar 2.

"I believe we must retain a core element of income support for farmers through our pillar 1 measures, such as the Single Farm Payment, and I will fight hard for this," he insisted.

The minister said there would be intense competition for funds from the EU budget in the coming period and Ireland needed to ensure that agriculture, and particularly Irish agriculture, received an adequate allocation.

"I would now like all of the stakeholders to engage collectively with their opposite numbers in the EU to ensure there is a unified message from Ireland that we want a strong and well-resourced CAP after 2013," Minister Smith said.

The minister explained that while the formal communication from the EU Commission regarding CAP funding was not expected until the middle of next year, the current informal phase of negotiations was extremely important.

"This is the time when ideas are exchanged and the main policy options are formulated," the minister said.

Irish Independent