Cap reforms must not reward 'armchair farmers'

Wed, Jan 16, 2013, 00:00

The Government must fight for a reformed Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) that rewards active producers over “armchair farmers” who have land but produce nothing, the Irish Farmers’ Association agm heard yesterday.

The European Commission is proposing a change to the way the EU’s annual single-farm payment is made. Instead of basing it on past production it is planning to move towards a flat payment per hectare.

However, IFA president John Bryan said this would undermine production as it gave no incentive to active farmers. “It makes no sense to transfer huge payments to people who are not working.”

Mr Bryan said the use of objective criteria, such as labour units and stocking rates, would distinguish between active and inactive farmers.

“The single-farm payment must reward work and effort, and not armchair farmers who have land but produce nothing,” he told delegates at the organisation’s 58th agm.

Ireland currently holds the EU presidency, and it had been hoped that it would achieve agreement on reform of Cap before the term ends in June. Mr Bryan said it was no exaggeration to say that Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney’s ability to deliver a Cap deal “will define his success or failure as Minister”. The wrong outcome would “destroy the viability of thousands of family farms” while the right outcome would underpin Ireland’s prospects for growth in farming.

“Farmers will hold the Minister and the Taoiseach directly responsible for ensuring a successful outcome to these negotiations.” He urged Mr Kenny to work with traditional Cap supporters – France and Germany – to resist pressure for budget cuts by states such as Britain.