The group commonly known as the “forgotten farmers” because they missed out on aid schemes for new entrants has been quantified at 3,900.
Increasing existing entitlements to the national average for these 3,900 farmers would cost more than €12 million, said Agriculture Minister Michael Creed.
The Programme for a Partnership Government contains a commitment to further pursue the category of forgotten farmers at European level.
The farmers are aged under 40, established their holdings prior to 2008, and hold no Basic Payment entitlements, or only low value entitlements.
They have missed out on four aid schemes.
The national reserve of the basic payment scheme provided for farmers aged under 40 when they first applied under the basic payment scheme, and who began farming no more than five years prior to that application.
In 2015, then agriculture minister Simon Coveney said “old young farmers”, who established holding from 2008 to 2009, but did not benefit from installation aid, or the young farmer group of the national reserve, could qualify for national reserve aid as a “group suffering from specific disadvantage”.
Some 280 were successful.
Mr Creed told the Dáil: “The specific group where we have a difficulty and on which we are trying to progress is the forgotten farmer.”
However, all available national reserve funding was utilised in 2015. In 2015, the reserve fund based on a 3% cut to the basic payment scheme financial ceiling, had provided €24m.
EU regulations provide that funding may be gained by surrender of entitlements unused by farmers for two consecutive years, and by clawback from sale of entitlements without land.
Funding from these two sources will be limited in 2017. The rules also allow for a linear cut to all farmers’ entitlements to fund the national reserve — or to top slice everybody’s payment to give ‘forgotten farmers’ the national average payment.
“In 2016, for understandable reasons given that it was a very difficult year, all farming organisations, with the exception of Macra na Feirme, said it could not happen,” said Mr Creed.
Meanwhile, Sligo-Leitrim Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny has suggested the 2,300 or so farmers with entitlements exceeding €50,000 be “top sliced” between 2% and 6%.
Minister Creed said this would generate only about €5m of the €12m needed.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved