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The recent cuts to Single Farm Payments (SFP) have come as a big blow to thousands of farmers, and especially here in West Cork where you have many farmers already marginalised as a consequence of the disadvantaged land that makes up many of the holdings.
Following on from the atrocious weather conditions from Jul 2012 to April of this year and the resulting serious fodder shortage crisis where farmers had to spend thousands of euros on ration feeds to keep their animals alive, this is now a real kick in the teeth to them approaching the Christmas season.
The first many farmers heard about these cuts was when their cheques came in the post greatly reduced in recent weeks. There was no written communication, the cuts were arbitrarily implemented without prior warning or consultation. You also have the anomaly of no account being taken of under claims on individual parcels of land against over claims on other parcels by the same farmer.
While there have been some individual inspections by Department officials, much of these judgements have been made based on satellite images.
Farmers struggling to make a living on rough terrain and farmers on mixed arable and rough land and already receiving only small payments have had their incomes seriously reduced, by up to 25% and more in some cases. The profit margins on beef and sheep are very tight and farmers in many cases are only breaking even. These payments are the only income that they have.
The disadvantaged area payments were always thought to be for assisting people who lived in such areas, now it seems that the opposite is being put into practice where land which was historically included in the payment is now being taken out and made ineligible for the SFP.
It is time for a bit of common sense from the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney. Surely the Department could show a bit of innovation here and if the eligible area for SFP has to be reduced, then that should be compensated for by increasing the value of the SFP/hectare so as farmers on low-to-middle income payments would not be hit at least.
This is another attack on rural Ireland which has already been badly hit by the continuing government policy of cuts and austerity, and the resulting high levels of unemployment and emigration from West Cork.
Cllr Donnchadh Ó Seaghdha
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