The Government has agreed an exchequer contribution of €2.3bn for the CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027 that will bring the total funding for the plan to €9.8bn, a 30% increase on the previous period.
The plan includes €260m for a suckler carbon efficiency programme; €100m for a sheep improvement scheme, €1.25bn for areas of natural constraints (ANC) and €256m for organic farming.
The Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the funding is an enormous vote of confidence in the sector’s ability to meet the considerable challenges it faces. However, farming groups have criticised the new scheme saying it favours a reduction in production with commercial farms being marginalised.
"This funding is a substantial increase on the existing rural development programme," the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said. "When you compare the last seven-year programme 2014-2020 with the next seven years 2021-2027, the funding is almost €1.2bn, or nearly 30%, higher. Even excluding the carbon tax funding element, there is an increase of €500m."
The new CAP Strategic Plan (CSP), will form the basis of public consultation ahead of its formal submission to the European Commission next year.
The EU budget agreement provided for a total CAP funding for Ireland of €7.5bn over the five-year period from 2023 to 2027. The funding is split between Pillar 1 which includes direct payments and sectoral interventions of €5.9bn and Pillar 2 which covers rural development with funding of €1.56bn. The announcement yesterday of €2.3bn from the State to co-fund the rural development element brings the overall CAP Strategic Plan Funding to €9.8bn.
The Department of Agriculture said the CAP Strategic Plan contains a number of particular requirements for all EU Member States in relation to direct payments to ensure they are directed to smaller holdings, to direct supports to younger farmers and to address the protein deficit.
At least 3%, or €35m, of the Pillar 1 budget will support young farmers each year. 10% or €118m will go to the Complementary Redistributive Income Support for Sustainability (CRISS), which benefits smaller farmers to a greater extent than larger farmers. Internal convergence will also continue so that all entitlements reach a minimum level of 85% of the national entitlement value by 2026.
Direct payments will be capped at €100,000 and payments over €60,000 will be reduced by 85%, resulting in an effective cap of €66,000.
The CSP will have a particularly strong emphasis on climate change and the environment. The plan will have a new “Green Architecture” which will have three main elements; a baseline level of climate ambition will be set down for all farmers receiving direct payments under CAP with non-productive features accounting for 4% of the area; a new Eco-Scheme that will be open to all active farmers with a financial allocation of approximately €297m per annum; and wider interventions that will deliver environmental improvement through participation by a significant number of farmers.
It is the focus on smaller farm holdings that has drawn criticism from farm groups. IFA President Tim Cullinan said the message from the Government is that it’s not interested in supporting active farming.
“A cohort of our most productive farmers are going to be devastated by the CAP decisions at EU level," he said. "The Minister's own decisions will do nothing to help these farmers. The total emphasis is on rewarding farmers for reducing production."
Mr Cullinan said currently only a third of Irish farms are viable and said the CAP funding will further reduce this number. He said that the funding for suckler cows, ewes and the tillage sector was totally inadequate.
He said more than €2bn of the funding announced today was EU funding, which had been announced previously, while €749 million was from carbon tax which was committed in the Programme for Government. “For the Government to say they have increased co-funding for the CAP by 50% is disingenuous as this includes the Government’s promised carbon tax allocation,” he said.
“The irony is that the carbon tax income is generated by active farmers, who have no alternative fuel source. Yet, they are the ones being nailed by these reforms and now by our own Government,” he said.
ICMSA President, Pat McCormack, said that the increase in the funding allocation is welcome and there was a sense that an effort had been made on the funding side.
The problem, according to Mr McCormack, is a very distinct "bias" against the commercial family farm which he said was “the basis for everything else in economic, social, demographic and environmental terms”.
He said commercial family farms are being actively marginalised and removed from core considerations to the periphery of policy and that this was an enormous mistake that could not be rectified by even this increase in allocation. “A CAP Strategic Plan that does not recognise the reality of commercial family farming and pretends that the whole sector can be turned in a specific direction without recognising that element just cannot work – plain and simple. Nor does it deserve to," he said.