Speaking after the debate in the Seanad on the Common Agriculture Policy, Sinn Féin Seanad spokesperson on agriculture, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said:
“I am disappointed with the outcome of negotiations on a new farm payments scheme.
Sinn Féin has argued for a cap on the high payments received by a small number of individuals and companies not directly involved in farming.
“We also proposed a radical redistribution of payments from higher to lower recipients to increase the viability of lower income farm households.
“The current unfairness of the scheme is illustrated by the gap between those at the top and the rest. There can be no defense of a scheme under which less that 2% of recipients at the top receive more in total, than the bottom 40%.
“Much of the defence of the current scheme was based on the claim that it rewards more ‘productive’ farmers. However, statistics on stocking density prove there is little evidence to support this claim.
“For the present we must accept the conservative parameters agreed by Ministers last June but we would argue for the greatest possible flexibility in the interests of those on lower payments.
“Sinn Féin supports the use of 2% of national ceiling for the young farmers’ scheme. That would amount to €24.3 million in 2015.
“We support the application of a Redistributive Payment, and agree with a definition of ‘active farmer’ that would exclude non-agricultural land such as airports, golf courses, and so on from payment. We also support the exclusion of agri-businesses whose main activity is not actual farm production.
“Under the agreed framework, we support the maximum possible redistribution of payments. We believe that the minimum payment ought to be the national average per hectare payment.
We support the introduction of a small farmers scheme with the inclusion of all farmers with annual payments of less than €1,250.”