Wednesday 13 December 2017

Young farmers feel 'sacrificed' in CAP reform deal

Aideen Sheehan and Michael Brennan

FARMERS will today protest at reforms to the way Commmon Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds are distributed.

And young farmers also claim they've been sacrificed to achieve the deal on reforms of CAP, which was agreed in Brussels late on Tuesday night.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney hailed the deal and the stage is set for marathon joint negotiations steered by the current Irish EU presidency, in the hope of a final deal in June.

But as he returned from Brussels to take Leaders' Questions in the Dail for the first time, there was already fallout from the planned CAP reforms.

While the money Ireland receives will not change from its current level of about €1.5bn a year, the way it is distributed will, which could boost 60,000 Irish farmers but leave 53,000 out of pocket.

The level of future CAP payments will be based on the number of hectares farmed, rather than the current system linked to food production.

But some farmers are angry that the Irish Farmers' Association has sought to limit how much money will be redistributed between larger and smaller farmers.

The protesters say that those currently on small payments are being portrayed as inactive 'armchair' farmers.

The IFA said its policy on CAP reform was discussed at meetings around the country every night and all farmers were welcome to attend.

IFA president John Bryan said that he had met over 1,000 members at regional meetings in the past fortnight who had affirmed their support for the IFA position on CAP reform.

Mr Bryan is attending a branch meeting in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, tonight and farmers from Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal will protest at it.


Drumshanbo IFA chairman Raymond Gilmartin said that there was huge anger about how the organisation had lobbied to protect the interests of the biggest farmers.

The draft deal brokered this week aims to limit the amount of money redistributed between Irish farmers to €74m.

But Mr Gilmartin said that should be substantially increased closer to the €281m the EU Commission wants redistributed.

"We're not saying we should get as much as the biggest farmers, but we should get more than we are at the moment," he said.

"And we don't like being portrayed as inactive just because our soil isn't as good."

Speaking in the Dail last night, Mr Coveney said the deal "holds out the prospect of significantly lower transfers of payments between farmers than would be the case under the commission's flat rate proposal".

He said the CAP deal had given the Government more flexibility to decide on how to allocate the €1.2bn in single farm payments to 130,000 Irish farmers.

Mr Coveney said he was giving serious consideration to using 2012 as the "reference year" for single farm payments – meaning that future EU grants would be based on how much a farmer produced in that year.

He said he hoped this would cool off farmland rental prices – which have soared due to the expectation that grants will be paid based on farm production this year.

And Mr Coveney insisted that the abolition of EU sugar quotas by 2017 would allow the sugar beet industry to be re-established here.

"This was the most difficult issue on which to get agreement. It was totally unachievable to get an earlier date," he said.

Irish Independent

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