Wednesday 13 December 2017

Reforms spark land-war fears

EU wants to divide €1.25bn CAP funds by farm size, not production

Aideen Sheehan

IRISH farmers will hold on to their €1.25bn share of Common Agricultural Policy funds under reform proposals revealed yesterday.

However, there will be winners and losers as farmers with the most land will get the most money, even if they're not producing the most food.

Farm groups say that some of the most productive farmers could lose up to 50pc of their income and the new flat-rate payment per hectare could favour large landholdings in the west -- producing little food -- over smaller -- more productive -- farms in the east.

There have also been warnings the price of renting farmland could double as farmers scramble for more land to secure the best deal under the overhaul proposed by EU Farm Commissioner Dacian Ciolos in Brussels yesterday.

Offaly dairy farmer Kevin Heavin predicted that the price of renting land would go "skyhigh" as the EU planned to calculate future annual payments to farmers on the amount of land being farmed in 2014.

This could spark a land grab and make the price of renting land unaffordable for farmers like himself.

Mr Heavin, who is Macra Young Farmer of the Year, said that like many of his contemporaries, over half the 80 hectares he farms is rented for between €250 and €375 per hectare.

"We'd be worried the price could double or we could lose the land altogether because there'll be more fellows trying to rent and those who own it but haven't really been farming for years, might decide to take it back themselves," he said.

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association said that the proposed reforms were already playing havoc with the rental market.

To avoid three years of wild speculation in the land rental market, Ireland should press for future payments to be based on 2011 land holdings, said ICMSA president Jackie Cahill.

The Irish Farmers Association predicted rental prices on the 800,000 hectares of leased land nationwide could soar by 40pc to 60pc.

Mr Ciolos said his reform proposals aimed "to support farmers' incomes in a fairer, simpler and more targeted manner".

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said he was concerned that the proposed changes could be disruptive for Irish farmers.

He stressed that these proposals were not final and negotiations would be going on for at least a year.

Irish Independent

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