Firstly, we must address the CAP and agri-spending announcements made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney last month.
We should say that the figures given and thrust of the announcement are be broadly welcomed and while we must emphasise that ‘the devil is in the detail’, it’s equally important to acknowledge the Government’s efforts at fairness in the allocation of funding.
In this regard, I’d like to especially welcome the decision not to introduce a coupled payment which ICMSA vigorously lobbied against on the grounds that it effectively diverted resources away from the most active farmers and we felt that this was — and is — a strategy which was always unwise, both in practice and principle.
On Pillar II, ICMSA members are satisfied on the parameters set out but do question whether the funding envisaged for the new agri-enviroment scheme, GLAS, will be adequate and whether dairy farmers would meet the terms and conditions.
Overall, the reaction of farm families to Pillar I is likely to be more restrained on the basis that whatever way the calculation are done, average farmers are going to face substantial reductions.
We estimate that someone who had received a Single Farm Payment of €10,000 last year could suffer a reduction of up to €1,250 and that’s before factoring in any approximation.
If the announcement of mid-January was broadly welcomed, then some of the provisions contained in the ESB (Electronic Communications Networks) Bill 2013 are definitely not welcome.
I have been sharply critical of those elements of the bill which expressly permits the ESB to provide access to its electricity infrastructure to other companies without any reference to the farmer or landowner on whose land the ESB’s infrastructure may be erected. The inclusion of such a section effectively made the ESB a ‘Trojan horse’, where farmers or landowners with ESB installations on their land could see private, profit-making, commercial concerns gaining compulsory access to their land.
People will rightly be very cautious about any scenario that has the ESB providing access to private commercial concerns that could then exercise a right to come onto or through private property — not on the basis of agreement with the property owner but on the basis of their subcontract with the ESB.
The ESB might be very happy to make a deal that provides access to my land to a company or companies — involving specific items of equipment — that I might completely oppose but yet, through their exercise of CPO, my right to refuse access to my private property will effectively disappear.
We’re particularly concerned about the involvement of private commercial concerns which will now be able to conclude possibly very lucrative agreements with the ESB. This seems to us to be completely extraordinary and desperately unfair in explicit acceptance of the ESB’s right to gain commercially by giving any amount of third parties the right to come onto other people’s private property.
ICMSA will be seeking clarification on this but on the face of the provisions published and the setting aside of the ordinary rights of landowners we expect our members to demand that we energetically resist this bill.
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