When I was invited to attend the launch of the latest programme, I was delighted, because it took place on the kind of family farm I have always advocated, and it was being led from the Dairygold side by Jim Woulfe, who has always been a supporter of this kind of co-operation.
Unfortunately, we have lost thousands of such family dairy farmers in recent decades, mainly because they never got a fair share of the supports for Irish agriculture. Nowhere has this been clearer than in the distribution of the single farm payment (SFP). Small to medium-size dairy farmers generally had to sell their male calves, and had very little SFP entitlement.
When Simon Coveney became the agriculture minister, he repeatedly stated that family farms would get top priority for support.
However, the existing CAP system has forced thousands of small to medium-size dairy farmers out of business, despite their potential to become viable.
Such farmers had great hopes for a fairer deal in the new CAP, which allowed the minister flexibility to re-distribute the Irish CAP budget.
However, disappointment is rife among farmers at the system of distribution of the new SFP chosen by the minister. They were told historical payments would be ended, but the new SFPs are generally based on historical payments, and on the activities of farmers in 2000/2001. The more you got in the past, the more you will get in the future.
The proposal for the greening element is another big disappointment.
Hopefully, GLAS and other schemes will focus more on those who need them. The frontloading of these payments towards medium-size farmers with the potential for development should be a priority, if family farms are to survive and expand to become viable.
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