Reducing the funding for the eco-scheme in the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) “would be negatively perceived at EU level and undermine future CAP budgets”, one farm organisation has warned.

The eco-scheme will be funded through the Pillar I budget, accounting for 25% of the national envelope for that Pillar. Farmers are expected to complete two measures under the scheme in order to receive payment.

An argument has been made in some quarters that the proposed level of funding is too high.

However, The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) believes that reducing funding for the eco-scheme would merely be for the purpose of “accommodating farmers on historic high payments”.

Speaking after a recent meeting with Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue, INHFA president Vincent Roddy raised concerns over how cutting the eco-scheme budget would look in the EU.

Currently, it is proposed that the eco-scheme will see payments of around €74/ha, subject to scheme uptake.

“While there have been suggestions that this should be reduced, the reality is that if this were to happen farmers would still be expected to deliver on the two measures, but would be paid less for carrying them out,” Roddy said.

“This would undermine everything we are trying to achieve for farmers with regard to the payment for a public good through increased environmental output.”

Roddy stressed the need for farmers to be paid sufficiently to help them deliver on the next CAPs ‘green’ policies.

The INHFA president argued: “It is vital that we recognise the changed landscape which will impact well beyond the upcoming CAP programme. Payments made to farmers will increasingly be on the basis of improved environmental output. While we may not like this, it is the new reality.

“In this changed landscape we must ensure that farmers are supported. This will require a major increase in the CAP budget and is achievable, provided we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot,” Roddy added.

“Unfortunately, any proposal to reduce the eco-scheme budget would do just that.”

Concluding his remarks, the INHFA president claimed that future CAP budgets will “depend on the minister’s decision” whether or not to “hold-firm” on the size of the eco-scheme budget.