There has been widespread disappointment at the confirmation that the EU Budget agreed recently in Brussels, will see a reduction for both the Single Farm Payment and the Rural Development Programme.
Speaking from Brussels, IFA President John Bryan said the EU Budget provides funding for a Common Agricultural Policy which can underpin Irish agriculture and Rural Development from 2014-2020, however he acknowledged part of the Budget represents a reduction in major supports for Irish farmers.
“These negotiations were difficult and complex, with huge pressure from some countries to slash the EU Budget. The Taoiseach Enda Kenny worked hard to build alliances with the French President Francois Hollande and others that minimised planned cuts to the CAP Budget, and the additional funds for Ireland in Pillar 11 secured are very necessary,” he said.
However, Mr Bryan said it is essential that the EU Rural Development funding is matched at least 50:50 from the national exchequer to ensure that all the Rural Development Programmes necessary to support vulnerable sectors and regions are delivered.
“The focus for the Government and the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney in the CAP Reform negotiations must now be to resolve the difficulties for Irish farmers with the greening and internal convergence proposals”.
He added that the current Commission proposals on convergence of the Single Farm Payment are totally unacceptable to Irish farmers.
“Minister Coveney must secure the flexibilities necessary for Ireland to protect and support active productive farmers before any deal is finalised,” he said.
Following the agreement on the Budget, Independent MEP, Marian Harkin warned that any plans to flatten the SFP would be inequitable.
“Given the fact that we now have an agreement on the amount of money Ireland will receive under both Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 of the CAP it’s time to have an informed and mature discussion about individual allocations within Ireland,” she said adding it was no longer reasonable that the Single Farm Payment should be tied to production during the reference years of 2000, 2001 and 2002.
The North & West MEP said that, although she opposed the flattening of overall Single Farm Payments, she totally supported the flattening of greening payments.
“Why should one farmer have a greening payment between three and six times per hectare greater than his neighbour for completing exactly the same greening requirement? We also need to deal with the situation where two farmers bid for the same animal at the mart and one has the advantage of having a much greater per hectare payment to spend,” she argued.
She called for fairness to be central to the eventual decision on the Single Farm Payment. “This should reflect the fact that all farmers can be productive and those who have to farm marginal land, often getting their cattle out to grass two months later than those on better quality land, deserve due consideration in the Single Farm Payment policy of the future”, Marian Harkin MEP concluded.