Opinion

Every farm business should receive a CAP advance payment

All of the farming organisations rightly welcomed the decision by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to push ahead with an advance on this year’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments.

This scenario was further boosted when Brussels gave the green light to a 70% initial contribution, rather than the 50% which would normally be the case in such circumstances. The payments will start arriving in bank accounts from next week onwards.

However, it seems to have been overlooked that those farmers selected for cross compliance and other inspections may well have to wait until these processes are competed, before receiving their money. In my opinion, this is inherently unfair.

It strikes me that every farmer should be eligible to receive the full advance payment over the coming days, with the top-up used as the vehicle from which fines can be deducted, if this turns out to be the order of the day.

It can take many weeks for a cross compliance inspection to take place and the ensuing report to be written.

This entire process will be further extended if producers are required to carry out on-farm improvement work.

Meanwhile, the support funds earmarked for the farmers in question remain in the government’s coffers.

The Department of Agriculture and Teagasc staff are fully aware of the carnage, which this year’s atrocious weather is wreaking on farm businesses right across Ireland.

It doesn’t take Albert Einstein to work out that the August floods and the subsequent unsettled weather patterns have combined to make the continuation of normal farming practices an impossibility in many parts.

This is particularly so in the north and the west, where cattle have been housed since the end of July. But, in truth, the same scenario is unfolding in many other parts of the country.

As a consequence, most farmers now regard this year’s CAP advance as a form of weather aid payment, which they vitally need to keep their businesses solvent over the coming months.

Given these circumstances, it should be in the gift of Michael Creed to ensure that all farmers receive an advance CAP payment over the coming days.

Such a decision does not hold up the inspection processes now underway. And, as I pointed out above, any fines that may need to be levied can be deducted from the top-up payments, due later in the year.

In the meantime, every farming business can receive a much-needed cashflow boost.

It all seems like a win-win scenario to me.

Creed has stated that his staff will act to ensure the maximum number of applicants receive their advance payment at the earliest possible date, subject to the necessary requirements of the schemes being met”.

With respect, that’s not good enough. The minister should be in a position to guarantee a blanket commitment, where CAP advance payments are concerned, this year.