CAP proposal could see 50,000 farmers on peat-soils lose payments

The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) are calling on Minister McConalogue to intervene and ensure a Council of Ministers proposal with regard to the management of peat-soils is withdrawn. The Council’s proposal which is covered under eligible hectare in GAEC 2 will, stated INHFA President Colm O’Donnell “create a situation that agricultural activity on these peat-soils is no longer allowed as farmers are required to carry out actions that will make farming activity impossible. If this happens then the land impacted will not be viewed as an agricultural area making the area concerned ineligible for CAP payments.”

This maintained the INHFA leader “is a major concern especially for the estimated 50,000 farmers across one million hectares with varying amounts of peat-soils. For these farmers the application of GAEC 2 under the proposed Council text will create another designation”.

Since this Council text first appeared, we have, continued O’Donnell, “been making representations to our Public Representatives both here and in Brussels highlighting the dangers that are in this proposal.”
Unsurprisingly the Council are he added “also aware of its potential impact which is why they have recommended the introduction of a derogation. This derogation will, they maintain ensure payments for farmers where their land is made ineligible as a result of complying with the conditions, they have set out for GAEC 2.

In assessing this the INHFA President questioned why the Council of Ministers would even consider creating a condition that they recognise is unattainable. Surely he stated “a basic principle in developing conditions around any of the GAEC’s is that farmers can deliver on these conditions. Otherwise they are just setting us up to fail.”

With regard to the proposed derogation, O’Donnell stated “how derogation such as this is not unique.” We have he added “a very similar derogation in place on the current CAP for farmers who have land made ineligible as a result of complying with the conditions set out in our Natura Directives (SAC and SPA designations).”

Unfortunately for farmers with Natura land, this derogation has, he stressed, “been a spectacular failure as revealed by the Department of Agriculture’s own figures outlined at a Charter of Rights Meeting.” These figures he continued “relates to the 2017 derogation requests and showed how 927 were assessed but only 13 were successful in keeping their land eligible. These were farmers with environmental assets looking for help to keep their lands eligible as an agricultural area and in most cases failing to do so.” “With a success rate of less than 1.5% any farmer would be very foolish to put their trust in a similar derogation for GAEC 2 in the upcoming CAP” he added.

In concluding the INHFA President emphasised the important role our Minister for Agriculture has on this, stating “how many farmers in his own constituency will be adversely impacted if the Council proposal is adopted. This is why it must be withdrawn in favour of the compromise text from the EU Commission and Parliament.”