IFA stance will not benefit most farmers
The commission is proposing to change this crazy system to a much simpler, fairer and more transparent one. It wants to pay a flat rate for every hectare that’s being farmed. Large farmers will obviously still get more than small ones, but the basis for the subsidy will be the same for everyone. An absurd, opaque and unfair system will be replaced by one that’s much more transparent.
What’s not to like? The problem is that the changes will redistribute income away from the big ranches to family farms, and away from Leinster and Munster towards Connacht and Ulster.
The farm advisory service, Teagasc, did some research on the effects of moving to a flat-rate system. It found, in the words of its director, Gerry Boyle, that “if we were to imagine a line drawn from Carlingford Lough down to the Shannon Estuary, in general the most intensive gainers under the current SFP system lie below this line and the less intensive gainers lie above this line. A ‘flat-rate’ system would see a virtual flip over in terms of gainers and losers. In terms of raw numbers, our research suggests that about 53 per cent would gain and about 47 per cent would lose.”
So a majority of farmers stand to gain from the changes, but they’re mostly in places like Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Longford, Clare and Galway. More recently, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney gave the Dáil even starker figures: “Under a national flat rate, although the overall allocation to Ireland would not change, around 76,000 Irish farmers would gain an average of 86 per cent on their current payments, while around 57,000 would lose an average of 33 per cent.”
Yet Coveney is standing with the IFA in opposing changes that would benefit a majority of farmers.
Why? Because the IFA is a brilliant political lobby – so good that even TDs from counties which stand to benefit from the changes keep their mouths shut. Which is fine – provided they stop boring the rest of us with sentimental tosh about how the family farm in the Wesht is the heart and soul of the real Ireland. If there was an EU subsidy for the stuff that comes out of the wrong end of a cow, that verbal slurry would make us all rich.