Monday 19 February 2018

Farmers accept CAP reform as Brussels talks go to wire

Aideen Sheehan Luxembourg

TALKS on reforming the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will go down to the wire in Brussels today.

Although substantial progress was made at negotiations in Luxembourg yesterday, major sticking points remain.

The European Parliament is holding out for equal decision-making powers with the Commission on the nitty-gritty of farm policy such as quotas and intervention pricing – a legally contested stance that could prove a stumbling block for the whole CAP reform deal.

Irish farm organisations grudgingly accepted the compromise proposals on redistribution of farm payments agreed yesterday. These mean all farmers would be entitled to a minimum of 60pc of the national average single-farm payment per hectare.

Around 60,000 farmers who are currently getting very low payments stand to gain from the agreement to redistribute around €103m of Ireland's single-farm payments.

Currently, some farmers get less than €100 per hectare farmed, while others get as much as €800 – as the amount is based on how much food they produced over a decade ago when subsidies were directly linked to the number of animals or acres of crops farmed.

The EU wanted to move towards an equal payment per hectare, but farm organisations here cried foul arguing it would take too much away from highly productive farmers.

The compromise solution now looks set to guarantee every farmer will get at least 60pc of the national average payment per hectare. That average in Ireland is currently around €260 per hectare, meaning the new 60pc minimum payment would be around €156.

Thousands of farmers who currently get between €156 and €234 per hectare would also see small increases, typically of around €10-25 per hectare.

The net result will be that thousands of farmers with low payments will get 35pc more than they are currently, while high earners could see their payments cut by up to 30pc.

The changes would be phased in gradually by 2019.

Some of Ireland's €1.2bn a year in CAP payments will also be diverted to incentivise young farmers, fund new entrants and for a crisis reserve fund.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said that, for Ireland, the compromise would equate to a minimum payment of around €150 per hectare to be phased in by 2019.

Around €103m out of the €1.2bn that is shared out between farmers in Ireland each year will be redistributed to those on lower payments.

"It means an average loss for farmers who are losing about 11-12pc and an average gain of about 35pc for farmers who are gaining," said Mr Coveney.

Irish Independent

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