A small, but powerful farming group wants to maintain the present system of single farm payment (SFP) after 2013.
Farmers are being told that this is the best method of distributing the new SFP.
But most dairy farmers, and particularly small to medium quota holders, would be victimised, because they receive little from the current system.
The same could be said of most dry-stock farmers.
Apart from the inequalities of the current system, any system based on what farmers were doing in 2000/2002 cannot be relevant in the run--up to 2020.
On several occasions, EU Agriculture Commissioner Ciolos has stressed that the present system of direct payments is unfair and unjust, and should be changed to ensure a minimum level of income for all active farmers.
Mr Ciolos also says that reform does not necessarily mean reducing total support for Ireland.
There is an argument being put forward by farm organisations that Ireland will lose out if the current system is changed.
There is no evidence to support this; indeed, based on the commissioner’s comments and opinions, the opposite might be the case.
There seems to be an official view, at present, that there should only be a very gradual change from the current system.
If this happens, we will have more or less the same winners and losers for many years to come — and the losers are likely to be forced out of farming.
Cutting large SFP payments from farmers does not necessarily mean cutting their profits — because a lot of the money is spent on paying exorbitant prices for renting land, depriving farmers who need extra land to expand.
As suggested by Mr Ciolos, surely a minimum level of support for all active farmers would be fair.
It would underpin the future of family farms, but it should be introduced as soon as possible.
Unlike the current system, not only would it meet the approval of the vast majority of farmers, but also of the EU consumers whose approval is necessary for the continuation of the SFP.
About half our farmers get €5,000 or less from the current CAP, even though many of these are highly productive on a per-acre basis.
A gradual increase in SFP for these farmers, as the agriculture minister suggests, will be of little help in keeping them in viable farming.
Minister Coveney must support a new CAP system that will give a minimum payment to all active farmers, if he wants to have a more vibrant family farm system in rural Ireland.
This will be the test of his support for the family-farm structure in Ireland and the EU.
Back to News Headlines