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Time to wake up to SFP cuts

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Eamon O Cuiv. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Eamon O Cuiv. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Eamon O Cuiv. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Finally, there appears to be more information on what all the CAP reform changes will mean at the end of the day for farmers.

The Department has spun it that 52,000 farmers receiving less than €5,000 a year in their Single Farm Payment (SFP) will be exempt from cuts for this year's payment.

But that neatly ignores the fact that the majority, comprised of 80,000, will see their payments cut by almost 10pc next October.

Figures on how much each farmer will loose or gain over the next five years are also starting to emerge.

While every reform of the EU's massive €55bn CAP fund promises to reduce red-tape, it is clear that every reform further complicates what is already a mind-boggling system.

Talk to anybody who deals regularly with farmers on SFP issues, and they will all admit that the vast majority are completely bamboozled by the system.

Is this the reason that most have not engaged with the process as it is thrashed out? After all, the majority of farmers stood to gain under Commissioner Ciolos's proposals, but these have been largely rejected by the Irish administration. Why did the majority not fight harder for their share?

Fíanna Fáil's agriculture spokesman, Eamonn Ó Cuiv, is embarking on another nationwide tour to canvass farmers for support for his alternative proposals. He insists that the reforms are not a done deal yet and that there is a fairer way to divide up the €6.1bn that will flow into farmer's bank accounts over the next five years.

But it is hard to envisage any major U-turns on the Irish policy direction at this stage. A huge amount of work has gone into getting the current proposals to this point. Neither Department officials nor farmers have an appetite for getting bogged down in trying to re-engineer how the system will work.

As it is, there are still a large number of issues that remain to be resolved.

What will happen to farmers who leased in or out their entire SFP last year? Is it the actual payment you receive in 2014 or the value of your entitlements (used and unused) that will be counted from 2015? Will the greening payment be paid out with the rest of the SFP? What will be the minimum stocking rate that will be required to activate a payment?

There's a lot still to be thrashed out, and maybe Deputy Ó Cuiv will succeed in altering the shape of things to come. But it's going to require a lot of farmers to suddenly wake up to the fact that the majority of their farm income for the next five years hangs in the balance.

Indo Farming