Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

West versus east divide on payments

Declan O'Brien and Martin Ryan

A leading farmer representative in the west of Ireland has warned that cuts introduced by successive governments were severely undermining the viability of suckler and sheep units in the region.

Sligo IFA chairman Eddie Davitt said the ongoing controversy with the Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) had put the spotlight on the plight of thousands of farmers who had suffered severe cuts over the past four years.

Mr Davitt said the axing of REPS, withdrawal of AEOS, cuts to the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme (SCWS) and the proposed reduction of €30m in DAS payments had devastated farmer incomes in the west.

"West of Ireland farmers feel that they have been unfairly hit by all the cuts of the past few years," Mr Davitt said.

"Lads in my area have suffered cuts of up to 50pc in terms of direct payments. Some families have lost between €12,000 and €15,000."

He said that while farmers in more prosperous parts of the country had a single farm payment (SFP) to fall back on, most farmers in the west depended on schemes such as REPS and DAS for income support.

"Most farmers in hill areas have single farm payments of between €3,000 and €8,000. This is a long way off farmers in the richer lands."

He said farmers in eastern and southern parts of the country had expressed their determination to hold onto their SFP but he said something also needed to be done to support hill and drystock farmers in the west.

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"The rug has been pulled from us. All the talk is of Harvest 2020 and the output increases but if the likes of the disadvantaged area scheme is not retained at its pre-budget level then there won't be anyone left farming in a lot of the west."

Mr Davitt pointed out that along with reviewing the DAS changes, the Department needed to introduce a meaningful AEOS as a matter of urgency.


Meanwhile, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, has been called on to clarify the situation on the DAS.

Pressure is now mounting on the minister after it was confirmed that the EU Commission have withheld approval of proposed changes to the DAS and had sought further clarifications in a 10-page letter to the Department.

The IFA's Flor McCarthy said in at a Limerick meeting last week: "The minister must clarify the situation following reports that his proposal for stocking rate criteria changes has been turned down by the EU Commission."

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