Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Suckler men set to scoop new CAP quality payment

Agriculture and Food Minister Simon Coveney has revealed moves towards a productivity-based payments scheme for suckler farmers
Agriculture and Food Minister Simon Coveney has revealed moves towards a productivity-based payments scheme for suckler farmers
Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Direct coupled payments to suckler farmers look set to be rejected in favour of a productivity-based scheme aimed at rewarding quality, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, has revealed.

Minister Coveney told the Agricultural Science Association (ASA) conference that he would prefer to transfer funds from Pillar I to Pillar II to tailor a scheme to give farmers a payment for productivity.

"Coupled payments do not work in all situations. If a farmer does not have the capacity to increase his stocking rate, he cannot gain from a coupled payment," he told the conference.

"Coupled payments have a use but we cannot support people for producing animals regardless of the quality of those animals."

The Minister's comments come as Teagasc research on the effect of the new CAP revealed that 40pc of the output from the cattle sector was at risk, with suckler farmers facing a significant income fall.

Teagasc director Dr Gerry Boyle told the 350 conference delegates that Teagasc was very anxious to defend the beef sector, but it would take a very significant transfer of funds to encourage farmers that might want to leave suckling to remain in the system under the new CAP regime.

However, he added that Teagasc analysis of Pillar I (direct payments) funding showed that only "very modest" coupled payments for vulnerable sectors of agriculture were possible without creating distortions within and outside the cattle sector.

Reacting to Dr Boyle's comments, IFA president John Bryan warned that unless Minister Coveney took urgent action to protect the suckler industry, thousands of jobs would be lost in agriculture.

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"The most startling thing said today is that 40 per cent of our beef production is at risk. The single biggest employer in agriculture is the beef industry. This would surely be a red light for any country or economy to hear," he insisted.

"Unless the Minister does something urgently, we will wake up one day with the Food Harvest 2020 targets in the bin and after losing 30,000 or 40,000 jobs," warned the IFA leader.

Paul Finnerty, chief executive of ABP Food Group, also called on the Department of Agriculture to support the national suckler herd "in a material way".

Mr Finnerty claimed the multiplier effect of the beef industry would ensure that €100m invested in any initiative to support the suckler herd would return four or five times that amount to the national exchequer.

Decisions on any potential suckler payment are imminent, with Minister Coveney telling the conference he intended to make decisions on direct payment by the end of October and decisions on rural development by the end of November.

Referring to the national budget, Minister Coveney committed to providing enough national exchequer funding to draw down all funding from Brussels.

The majority of schemes eligible for Pillar II such as environmental schemes and grant aid for capital expenditure are based on 50:50 European Commission and State funding, with scope to increase the national funding element.

"We will make sufficient funds available to draw down all available EU funds and I would hope to be in a position to go way beyond the minimum co-funding requirements in the future but that will take time," the Minister said.

Meanwhile, tax changes aimed at encouraging land mobility are expected to be included in the upcoming Budget 2014. Speaking to the Farming Independent, Minister Coveney said that while he could not give details, he intended to put together a package to incentivise long-term leases.

"Conacre thinking is a disaster, with farmers competing against each other each year. It's just bad planning, with no long-term thought put into how best to use the land," Minister Coveney maintained.


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