Subsidies inequality must be challenged

Michael Plunkett

For the past 20 years, I have watched 80pc of EU farm subsidies go to the top 20pc from my farm here in Westmeath.

In the livestock sector, it rewarded those who purchased and slaughtered large numbers of stock. It took no account of cattle stock sold in the mart by farmers or heifer stock.

How can someone with Single Farm Payment (SFP) of €7,000 compete with someone receiving €170,000? This inequality has impeded new farmers entering farming, as well as existing farmers who had potential for expansion.

Commissioner Ciolos proposes an equitable area based system in which approximately 77,000 farmers would gain. Minister Coveney has proposed a different model which softens the reduction in the payments to the farmers with the highest SFP. He claims Commissioner Ciolos' proposals would damage production and jeopardise Food Harvest 2020.

An equitable distribution of €1.2 billion would give an enormous boost to our rural economy through a larger economic multiplier effect. If a simple area based system has worked well in Germany then it should work here also.

I urge farmers who stand to lose out with Minister Coveney's proposals to lobby county councillors, TDs, MEPs and write to Commissioner Ciolos to get what is fair for all farmers, not just the top 20pc.

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