The Irish Family-Farm Rights Group (IFRG) has called for farmers to be balloted on CAP proposals before any deal is done.
IFRG national chairman, Donie Shine said that over the last 20 years, successive EU agriculture commissioners have attempted to reform the CAP payments system to distribute payments more equitably.
But, he said, these attempts have been repeatedly resisted by previous Irish agriculture ministers and by the Irish farmer lobbying establishment.
CAP farmer views
This time around, farmers with low basic payments, with high basic payments or with no payments at all could have their own say about the future of their EU farm payments through a farmers’ ballot, the IFRG said.
This ballot, which could be undertaken by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), or other reputable agency, could contain a list of the alternative EU farm-payment options, according to the IFRG.
Each farmer could vote for the option that best suits them. The ballot should be undertaken as a matter of urgency before Minister for Agricuture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConologue signs off on any deal with the EU Council of Ministers.
“Each and every farmer organisation should be given the opportunity to put forward a payment option that they believe best represents their members’ interests for inclusion on a farmer’s ballot paper,” the IFRG national chairman said.
He added that his organisation would be seeking to have its own payment preference included as an election option on any ballot.
“To ensure the fair and equitable distribution of EU farm funds to all farmers, the IFRG believes that from year one CAP 2023’s Pillar 1 Basic Payment Scheme must front-load at least a basic payment of €300, on average, onto each hectare (ha) of a holding, up to at least 32ha of a farm (the national average farm size) where those hectares are available.
“From year one under the Pillar 2 of the CAP Rural Development Programme, the minister must fully co-fund an eco scheme, similar to the old REPS, where front-loaded payments would again deliver at least an average payment of €300 onto at least each of the first 32 available hectares of a holding.”
Current CAP – a broken promise
Donie said that when Ireland joined the EEC (now the EU), Irish farmers were “promised that all their boats would rise together”.
“In addition to opening up new markets to Irish agricultural produce, Brussels encouraged the Irish farming community to have faith in the EEC project by giving annual cash payments to all farmers so that they would be guaranteed a certain level of income while producing food at prices affordable to the consumer.”
But, he said, it hasn’t been an equal playing fields for about 80% of farmers.
“Either the current flawed Irish system of EU farm-fund distribution among Irish farmers is repaired, so it is fair and equitable, or it should be scrapped altogether so that the under-subsidised 80% of Irish farmers with little or below average basic payments can compete again on a fair and level playing field.”