Targeted CAP payments needed to halt tillage decline, warn growers

Bobby Miller, chairman of the Irish Grain Growers Group, makes his point at a previous protest at the Guinness Hop Store in Dublin. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Bobby Miller, chairman of the Irish Grain Growers Group, makes his point at a previous protest at the Guinness Hop Store in Dublin. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

A targeted payment aimed at halting the decline of the crops sector will have to be a key element of Ireland's national approach in the next CAP, the Irish Grain Growers Group (IGGG) has insisted.

The total land area committed to tillage, which is estimated to be 310,000ha this year, has fallen by 20pc since the start of the decade. The area sown to cereals has seen the most dramatic reduction, falling by 30,000ha over the last three harvests alone.

Bobby Miller of the IGGG said that a targeted payment for a "ring-fenced area of tillage" was the only approach that could guarantee the survival of the sector.

"Targeted coupled payments work; the protein payment scheme proves that," Mr Miller pointed out.

He said focussed actions to stop the slide in the area of land given over to crop production was urgently needed.

"There is a growing realisation of the importance of the tillage sector for the wider agricultural industry. Tillage sector supports ultimately benefit other farming enterprises, as well as delivering environmental rewards," said Mr Miller. The IGGG position will be pressed at the forthcoming national discussions on CAP, which are being hosted by the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, and will involve the farm organisations and other stakeholders in the industry.

OECD analysis

Meanwhile, the continued reliance on direct payments will prevent a transformation towards a truly results-based CAP, a leading OECD representative has warned.

The OECD's Carmel Cahill said that achieving improvements in areas such as the environment was difficult because there was no correlation between payments and the results of actions.

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She maintained that greater local control of CAP funds, which has been proposed by the EU Commission, increased the risk of the recoupling of payments.

Ms Cahill predicted a greater concentration on objectives such as environmental quality, sustainability and resilience.

In a wider analysis of supports to agriculture across 51 countries, the OECD's Martin von Lampe showed that €556bn was directed at the farm sector during the 2015-17 period.

Almost 80pc of the total government support to agriculture was provided to individual agricultural producers, while just 14pc went to general services such as innovation, biosecurity and infrastructure.

Nearly two-thirds of the payments made directly to farmers consisted of measures that are considered the most distorting for production and trade, which are particularly prevalent among developing countries.

In a finding which mirrors much of the criticism of CAP supports, von Lampe found that the distribution of subsidies was inequitable as the "largest farmers tend to pocket must of the money".

The OECD encourages governments to dismantle the measures that "encourage damaging and unsustainable production practices, raise consumer prices, stifle innovation and competitiveness, and impede trade."

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