CAP payments must reflect current farming practices

How many people can remember Sonia O Sullivan winning a silver medal at the Sydney Olympics or Bill Clintons last visit to Ireland as US President and the subsequent drama of the Bush/Gore election count. If not, what about the terror attack that brought down the twin towers, or the introduction of the Euro or Roy Keane and Saipan or closer to home, the foot and mouth crisis.

All of these events will still be quite familiar to an older age cohort. But for anyone that still qualifies as a young farmer the memory or significance of them may well be confined to re-runs of Reeling in the Years.

Yet in farming there are still those who believe we should continue to make CAP payments based on farming activity from 20 years ago.

Currently there are farmers coming into the industry that weren’t even born when these events happened. These farmers had no control over the farming activity and the subsequent payments developed during the reference years of 2000, 2001 and 2002. However, they and many more like them are now being burdened with an historical payment system, that doesn’t reflect the significant changes, both at national and at farmgate level.

It is now time to move on and this CAP reform provides the opportunity to do so.

A flat rate payment which can be achieved through 100% convergence is not just the fairest but the only credible way forward.

With all farmers now expected to comply with the same conditions as outlined under the Good Agricultural & Environmental Conditions (GAEC) its not unreasonable that all farmers will get the same payment rate per hectare.

While accepting the challenges posed by this for some farmers, I am hopeful that they will see merit in the principle, of rewarding farmers equally based on the actions or regulations expected from them.

In our proposals we have outlined the need for a front loaded payment which can be delivered under the Complementary Redistributive Income Support for Sustainability (CRISS). This option allows for an additional payment to be made to each farmer on their first 10 to 20ha.

Summary of INHFA Proposals under new CAP

? Full convergence with a front-loaded option

? An eco-scheme paying a uniform rate and accessible to all farmers &land types

? A Pillar 2 Program with a budget of at least €800m to deliver improved payments in the ANC, Agri-env Schemes, Suckler and Sheep Welfare

? A Natura payment of €150/ha in recognition of the major burden imposed by the 38 ARC’s

? Access for farmers on private hill and commonage lands to Agri-Env Schemes with proper recognition for the environmental outcomes they are currently contributing

? Ensure the conditions for all schemes (especially the GAEC’s) don’t discriminate against farming practices & land type

? Ensure definitions are broad enough and won’t discriminate against part-time farmers