Flexibility agreed on Tuesday by EU agriculture ministers holds out the hope of less disruption of the single farm payment than feared by Irish farmers.
The ministers agreed on several payment options which the Irish Presidency can bring to the discussions with the European Parliament and the Commission, starting on Apr 11.
Ministers want to allow partial rather than full movement by member states towards flat rate payments and greening payments by 2019, limiting the first step to 10% of national or regional ceilings.
Their inclusion of the convergence model proposed by Ireland holds out the prospect of significantly lower transfers of payments between farmers than under the commission’s original flat rate proposal.
The ‘first hectares’ redistributive payment (also known as front loading) also remains an option in the agriculture ministers’ negotiating position with the European Parliament and with the commission. This would allow member states to top-up the basic payment for the first hectares of each farm.
Ministers will look for up to 7% of annual national payment ceilings to be available as coupled payment.
They want the sugar quota regime extended only to the 2016/2017 marketing year. In “greening”, they have added additional flexibility demanded by member states, including Ireland’s requirements that greening payment be a percentage of an individual farmer’s payment rather than a flat rate. But the commission welcomed ministers’ “clear consensus” that 30% of direct payments will be linked to a more sustainable CAP.
In the “greening” detail, ministers want full credit for practices which yield an equivalent or higher benefit for the climate and the environment compared to the “greening” practices proposed by the commission; progressive application of and exemptions from crop diversification requirements; adjustment to the ratios of permanent grassland, starting with 5% ecological focus area, with scope to increase to 7% in 2018; and allowing 50% of the EFA requirements to be applied at regional level and/or collectively by groups of farmers.
Mr Coveney also noted a change from the 2014 proposed reference year for the establishment of payment entitlements. In rural development, “greening” payments are excluded from the agri-environment-climate payment baseline by ministers.
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