Irish team poised to secure EU farm deal

Single Farm Payment key issue for Ireland

Irish farming groups have been lobbying strongly for a low mandatory minimum payment

Irish farming groups have been lobbying strongly for a low mandatory minimum payment


The Irish presidency of the Council of the European Union expects to reach agreement on a landmark reform of the Common Agricultural Policy at a series of key meetings today in Brussels.

Talks continued late last night in Luxembourg among EU agriculture ministers following two days of negotiations, with agreement reached on most outstanding issues. Chief among these was consensus on how the single farm payment is distributed by member states to farmers – a key issue for Irish farmers.

Minimum payment
The European Commission has proposed that all farmers throughout the European Union should be entitled to a minimum level of payment through the EU direct payments system. But Irish farming groups have been lobbying strongly for a low mandatory minimum payment, arguing that a high minimum payment level could reward unproductive farmers, and cut the payments to larger, and arguably more productive, farmers.

Under a proposal agreed by negotiators late on Monday night countries could introduce a minimum payment of 60 per cent of the average single farm payment by 2019.

Direct payment
While this compares to a 75 per cent threshold proposed by the European Commission, farming groups had hoped that the number could have been even lower. “We think this is a good middle ground position, and I would strongly defend it,” Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said yesterday in Luxembourg. He pointed out that the new proposal, if agreed, would mean around 60,000 Irish farmers would be entitled to higher payments, while around 50,000 farmers would see a drop in their direct payment.

However, the IFA said that any cuts must be imposed over the longest timetable possible, noting that 50,000 of the country’s most productive farmers will lose between 15 and 35 per cent of their overall payment by 2019 under the new system.

Reiterating his opposition to the minimum payment proposal in Luxembourg yesterday, IFA president John Bryan said there is “no justification for taking money off productive farmers to redistribute to non-active farmers”.

Representatives of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association, who were also in Luxembourg for the talks, said the 60 per cent minimum payment proposal represented a “crude and flawed effort to redistribute CAP funds,” noting that it will severely impact typical cattle and sheep farmers with modest payments.

Negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy have been ongoing for three years but it has fallen to the Irish presidency of the Council of the European Union, which is now in its final week, to secure final agreement on the reform package.

While the commission launched its proposals in 2011, the council of agriculture ministers, under the Irish presidency, and the European Parliament, reached agreement on their respective positions in March.

Negotiations between the two institutions have been ongoing since April.

As well as a change to the single farm payment, the reformed Common Agricultural Policy also includes a number of measures to encourage environmentally sustainable farming, including a provision to link 30 per cent of the single farm payment to environmental measures.