Following their meeting with the Ministerial team of Charlie McConalogue, Pippa Hackett and Martin Heydon the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) stressed how our farmers must be the top priority on the design of any new schemes.
National President Colm O’Donnell outlined concerns the organisation had on the drafting of the proposed Agri-Environment Climate Measure Scheme (AECM). This, a full redrafting of the proposed suckler scheme and the delivery of a fairer CAP through full convergence and a front-loaded payment were discussed in detail with the Ministerial team. The Ministers gave a commitment of further engagement with the organisation.
Through our assessment of the proposed AECM, O’Donnell stated “how there appears to be a significant change in how these schemes will operate with the focus now on the delivery of results as opposed to previous agri-environmental schemes that focused on actions.”
“In a results based model there will be a much higher management requirement as illustrated through the various EIP’s and Locally Led Projects. In these projects a major part of this management is assessing the individual contribution from farmers. While this is manageable where participation levels are quite low the delivery at a national level is very questionable.”
With potentially 60,000 participants in the new AECM there is, continued the INHFA President “a genuine concern that a high percentage of the budget could be spent on administration, with planners and advisors having to continually assess if farmers are delivering the results expected.”
When we consider how the planning and administration costs for GLAS are currently running at approximately 5% there is, stated O’Donnell “a danger that even with an increased budget, farmers could end up doing a lot more for considerably less.”
In discussing access and the make-up of the new AECM, O’Donnell outlined how farmers that are currently delivering an environmental outcome must get access and are rewarded accordingly. We cannot, he stated “see a repeat of GLAS where farmers on our private hills and lowland high nature value farmers were excluded despite delivering in terms of environmental output.”
With regard to commonage farmers, O’Donnell was adamant “that these farmers must get access to the new ACEM and be dealt with on an individual basis.”
In conclusion the INHFA President outlined the need for a much improved budget to accommodate additional farmers and deliver a higher payment. This increased budget must, he stressed “be directed towards farmers and not lost through excessive administration.”