Ferris calls for full and honest debate on CAP reform
Sinn Féin spokespeople on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD has called for a full and honest debate on the reform of the farm payments system under the Common Agricultural Policy. Deputy Ferris was speaking following his return from Brussels where Sinn Féin and farmers representatives met with Agriculture Commission member Mike McKenzie.
Deputy Ferris said: "Negotiations on the new payments system are reaching a crucial juncture. The debate has moved away from the original Commission proposal of a flat rate and is now centred on French proposals for frontloading a higher rate, with options for individual states to tailor that to their own farm structures.
“There has been some discussion here of paying a per hectare rate of €400 for the first 20 hectares. I believe that there is some merit in some form of such a system tweaked to include extra payments on land above 20 hectares and including Pillar II payments and a new scheme to encourage young entrants.
“Whatever the outcome, we need an open and honest debate. The perception among the many small to medium producers is that the debate has been skewed in favour of larger producers and those in receipt of large payments. At present over 80% of farmers receive an average payment of just over €5,000. Just 1.62% receive more than €50,000 but that accounts for over 10% of the total payments.
“There is also some resentment regarding the perception that farmers on lower incomes and payments are in some way ‘unproductive’. Increasing production is not without cost and sticking with the current system of payments means that it will be difficult for these farmers to afford additional investment to improve their holdings productive capacity in the future and therefore contribute to the Harvest 2020 targets. It is also worth noting that certain restrictions beyond their control such as SAC/NHA designation contributed to these farmers having a smaller Single Farm Payment in the original reference period.
“The Nitrates Directive and the restrictions that it puts on stocking rates may in certain cases make it difficult to justify paying historical high entitlement rates of over say €600 plus a Hectare, as the Nitrates Directive puts a ceiling on the amount of stock that this land can hold and therefore limits its ‘productive capacity’.
“We are pleased that Sinn Féin’s proposal for an upper limit on payments, of €100,000 moving towards €50,000 by 2019 has gained considerable support whereas until now we were almost the sole advocates of that. Indeed the debate has moved beyond that with the current proposals that are on the table.”