New proposals for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to be raised in Brussels today, Monday, February 25th could have great significance in relation to the distribution of the Single Farm Payment (SFP) element of the policy.
This was stated by Independent MEP Speaking at the public meeting which she organised in Ennis, Co. Clare on Friday, February 22nd.
She said “Fairness in the distribution of the SFP is the core requirement for the future and it must be done in a way which will protect the family farm while ensuring that no farmer however intensive has payments reduced to the extent that it threatens viability. She pointed out that the average per hectare payment in Co. Clare was €223 per hectare while the payment in Co. Kilkenny, for instance, was €350 per hectare. “This indicates the significant gap which exists currently in payments, and the review of the CAP provides an opportunity to bring greater fairness into SFP policy”, she said.
“The French proposal which aims to front load payments at a higher level for the first 40 hectares will have a significant level of support in Ireland and will have to be seriously considered in the debate which is only now beginning in earnest in this country”, she said.
She stressed the importance of Pillar 2 payments and the need to develop meaningful schemes which would be essential to counties like Co. Clare. “In this regard there must be no repeat of the unacceptable decision of the Department of Agriculture to retrospectively change the conditions of schemes. I am awaiting a response from the EU Ombudsman to my complaint against the decision of the Department of Agriculture and the agreement of the European Commission to the retrospectively change the stocking rate conditions of the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. This change should not have been implemented and such retrospective amendments to schemes must not be allowed in the future CAP”, North & West MEP said.
She emphasised that climatic and soils composition had a significant influence on farm profitability. “In some counties, cattle can be out to grass in February while in others it will be April at earliest before farmers can access cheaper grass feed”, she said. Such differences should be factored into the future CAP, she stressed.
Referring to the current horsemeat controversy the independent MEP said that it was a manifestation of the unacceptable control of a small number of retail giants and their battles for market share. “Unfortunately attempts at EU level to tackle the serious problem of the concentration of purchasing power by multinational retailers have not made sufficient progress. My colleague in the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness has done sterling work on this problem and I have backed her strongly in an effort to curb the power of retailers. This must be done in order to ensure that farmers gain a deserved better share from the food chain and to avoid the unacceptable pressures placed on processors to produce cheap food products which has resulted in the current unacceptable mislabelling of food products”, Marian Harkin MEP concluded.