IFA accuses Coveney of grossly understating threat posed by CAP

More than 600 Irish farmers stand to lose more than 70% of their single farm payment in the 2014 revamp of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, says Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.

The European Commission has proposed redistribution of direct payments by moving to uniform per hectare payments, or flat rates, by 2019, in each member state or region of a member state.

Mr Coveney said that the overall allocation to Ireland would not change, but about 57,000 Irish farmers would lose 33% of their SFP, on average, while about 76,000 would gain 86% on average.

But, for those on very high payments of over €1,000 per hectare, the loss would be well over 70%.

The number of farmers in receipt of payments of over €1,000 per ha under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme was 620.

“In general, the losses would be incurred by more productive farmers. This would have undesirable consequences at a time when Ireland is trying to encourage sustainable intensification in the agri-food sector, as we strive to achieve the objectives in the Food Harvest 2020 strategy,” said Mr Coveney.

Meanwhile, IFA president John Bryan has accused the minister and his department of grossly understating the threat posed by the Commission’s CAP proposals.

Based on the Department of Agriculture’s analysis of the CAP reform proposals, carried in the Farmers Journal, the majority of farmers — those receiving payments of between €260/ha to €500/ha — can expect to see their payments reduced by 2% to 11%.

The analysis outlines the payments which a farmer would receive in 2019, at the end of a stepped transition from current payment levels.

The department’s model is part of its EU lobbying effort to try to minimise any impacts for Irish farmers likely to result from the transition from output-based “historical” farm payments to the EU’s widely contested new land ownership-based “flat-rate” payment model.

IFA leader John Bryan said: “The reality of the proposals..., is not only for a flattening of the basic payment by 2019, but also a flat-rate greening payment.”

Mr Bryan has warned that thousands of farmers would lose up to 50% of their payments, saying that the minister’s figures give farmers a false sense of security about the level of cuts that the Commission is hell bent on achieving.

He said: “Farmers will be in Dublin next Tuesday for the Day of Action, where they will send a clear message to the minister that he will be held to account if he fails to secure a full CAP budget and minimises the damage to the Single Farm Payment and rural development schemes for farmers.”

However, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) director Tony Lowes is calling for a public debate on CAP agricultural reform. He says taxpayers should know that without CAP payments Irish farming would have made a loss of €600m in 2009.

Mr Lowes said: “The public is not aware of the stark reality of the fact that they are paying for the entire structure of Irish agriculture and they have a right to a voice in the debate about the future of farming.”

The FIE said the EU’s direct payments to agriculture amount to €1.8bn annually. It argues that 80% of funds go to 25% of the — primarily wealthy — farmers. It has described the proposed new flat rate as “a salvation for the farmers on disadvantaged lands in rural Ireland — 70% of Ireland’s farm land”.

It said: “The result of this reversal in payments would be a transforming boost to rural economies with the payments going directly to small farmers and so into local economies, supporting towns and villages, schools, post offices and local shops.

“It would also ensure the viability of small holdings, whose contribution to biodiversity has itself been calculated as exceeding any product value from increased stock production.”

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