In truth, the answer to the aforementioned question may well come courtesy of the IFA’s ‘chat’ with members of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee later today. I know from the discussions that I have had with lots of farmers over recent weeks that many are totally confused about the main principles of the new CAP reforms, never mind the fine detail!

This situation should never have been allowed to come about in the first instance. The reality remains that farmers want to get on with a bit of farming without having to worry about what forms they have to fill in or which EU directives they have to comply with on a daily basis –  within reason, of course!.

It’s truly laughable that Farm Commissioner Dacian Ciolos set off down the road of pushing forward  the latest set of CAP reforms with a clear message to the effect that he wanted to develop a simplified series of support measures for EU agriculture. And now look where we are!

We are now being told by senior Department of Agriculture officials that the die is cast regarding the detailed CAP policies which Simon Coveney will implement, irrespective of what comes out of the current consultation process. Fair enough. But methinks that someone will have to come up with a well structured ‘idiot’s guide’ to what’s actually on offer, once the dust settles.

Irrespective of what is in the final detail of the new CAP arrangements, Simon Coveney has to deliver a set of conditions which will allow Irish agriculture grow to meet its Harvest 2020 targets.  He has coined the phrase ‘sustainable intensification’ in response to this challenge. Essentially, for this to work the CAP support payments must be used to stimulate food production in this country. I think that the new measures targeting young farmers can – and will – play a key role in this regard.  At 58 years,  the current average age of Irish farmer is far too old. But as for the rest of the measures, the jury is still out in determining how effective they will be in kick starting agri output in this country.

In the good old days we had a support system for agriculture based on headage payments for livestock and area payments for tillage. These measures worked back then: I see no reason why such an approach could not work again. After all the EU authorities always have the ultimate control measure at their disposal – the size of the CAP budget !