Irish farmers are among the more positive in their early reactions across EU member states to how governments will differently implement CAP reform.
Neighbours in Wales and Scotland are among those with major reservations.
Varying levels of transfers from the EU fund for single farm payments into the fund for rural development have triggered strong reactions among farmers.
The transfer ranges from zero in member states such as Ireland and Italy, to 3% in France, 4.5% in Germany, 9.5% in Scotland, 12% in England, and 15% in Wales.
There has been a surprising contrast between farmer reactions in Wales and England, to the decisions to transfer significant funding from direct payments to rural development in both territories.
Ed Bailey, President of the NFU Cymru farmers organisation said: “I am still struggling to believe, almost a month on, that our Minister has decided to transfer 15% from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2, when he doesn’t yet know what he’s going to spend it on.
“There is no doubt in my mind that this will leave us disadvantaged against our competitors in other parts of the UK as well as in Europe. The Minister states this decision will make Welsh farming more resilient in the future, I fear this has the potential to make some even less resilient.”
EU funding through the CAP accounts for 80% of farm income in Wales.
The transfer to rural development funding removes nearly £300 million of farmer payments over the next seven years.
Another NFU Cymru spokesman, Rhys Jones, said: “The incentive to produce food for food security has been taken away from Welsh farmers by the Minister’s decision to siphon off 15% into Pillar 2.”
However, Welsh farmers have been told that 80% of them will not see a big change in their single farm payments, despite the 15% reduction and a new three-regions SFP calculation system.
Alun Davies, the Welsh Government’s Natural Resources and Food Minister said his decisions on Pillar One payments had not been taken lightly.
“The fall in the EU CAP budget has made these reforms more challenging, but the long-term likelihood of the EU CAP budget falling further has made the case stronger to use the still generous resources available to support change for the long-term,” he said.
Before the CAP reform, Wales had a 7% transfer from direct payments to rural development.
In England, the transfer from farmers’ pillar 1 direct payments to rural development in pillar 2 increases from 9% to 12%, with a view to moving 15% to pillar 2 from 2018 onwards.
However, the National Farmers Union said this is a sensible and pragmatic decision which will help England’s farmers and grow-ers to remain competitive, produce more food and maintain the environment.
The decision reduces farm-ers’ direct payments more than £50m per year, and more than £100m if the transfer rises to 15%. But the NFU said strong pressure from other parts of government to transfer some of the CAP budget outside the farming sector was successfully resisted.
The announcement on CAP was also welcomed by the CAP Coalition for a Fair Deal for English Farmers — which includes the NFU and 37 other agricultural organisations.
In contrast, representatives such as Conservative north of England MP Anne McIntosh said reducing the money available to farmers by 12% was disappointing.
She said it left a clear discrepancy between farmers in her constituency and those across the border in Scotland, whose direct payments are cut by only 9.5%.
She said cutting payments to farmers may leave them more vulnerable to shocks such as poor weather and price volatility, and less able to invest to increase productivity and resilience.
Northern Ireland farmers escaped the CAP refor m transfer of 7% from direct support to rural development originally announced by Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill, thanks to NI finance minister Simon Hamilton’s legal action to prevent it.
Ulster Farmers’ Union president Harry Sinclair welcomed the news, saying: “The UFU’s historic position was for no transfer of funds between Pillar 1 and Pillar 2.”
The Scottish move to a new area-based support system is seen as putting pressure on the farmers who keep cattle and shee p on hills and uplands, and farmers representatives have said they are worried that it could under-mine livestock numbers.
The Scottish Beef Association has warned that many upland beef farmers could struggle with the new CAP deal, with some beef producers to lose as much as half of their current Single Farm Payment — or €200 per cow.
The NFU in England said they tried to find alternatives to “the madness of the three-crop rule”, along with the British government. But this feature of “greening” for larger tillage farms goes ahead across Europe.
¦ France will introduce the so- called ‘ redistributive’ payment next year, and then gradually increase the share of its direct payment envelope used for this mechanism.
The redistributive payment option offered member states the possibility to take up to 30% of single farm payments for redistribution across the first 30 hectares of each farmer.
France has also decided to use 13 % of its direct payments for ‘coupled’ aid.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved