Independent MEP Marian Harkin has warned that in the absence of any commitment to Pillar 2 funding, that the focus had to be on how the Single Farm Payment (SFP) would be distributed in the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Speaking at a public meeting which she organised in Claremorris on Friday, March 1st the North & West MEP said that seven years ago the funding and composition of the Pillar 2 schemes afforded considerable support for farmers especially in the less favoured areas.
Unfortunately, she pointed out, there could be no reliance on what would emerge from the current negotiations in relation to Pillar 2 or on the level of co-funding which would be provided by the Government. “This is why there must be fairness in the distribution of the SFP and in the way in which the greening element will be handled”, she said. In this regard it was not acceptable that greening payments to some farmers could be a multiple of those paid to others to do exactly the same thing, she said.
“Neither would it be fair that any family farms future would be threatened by cuts in payments which would undermine viability”, the Independent MEP said. Much had been spoken about the need to support the ‘active’ and ‘productive farmer’ but people had been slow to define what this meant, she said. “My contention is that a 20 cow farmer can be accurately and rightly described as active and productive as one who has 200 cows and both need to be supported in the fair allocation of the SFP”, she said.
Speaking after the Claremorris meeting, Marian Harkin said that she had engaged in many meetings over the past year with farmers’ organisations and farmers in general and what she had gleaned from them informed many of the amendments she had put forward to the European Commission’s proposals. “However until the Claremorris meeting, for me, the debate had lacked the openness which would help politicians to fully evaluate the balance necessary to protect the overall interests of all farmers”, she said.
Up to then the words active and productive had dominated and she was pleased that the Claremorris meeting had brought forward a needed focus on the family farm, she said. That focus was needed, she stressed, and was one which, together with the delivery of environmental benefits, would be likely to influence the view of CAP Reform by the European Parliament, Independent MEP Marian Harkin concluded.