The new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is in danger of moving away from its original purpose of food supply – and becoming a “support system for landowners”, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA).

Ireland “must concentrate on getting maximum member state autonomy and flexibility” within the parameters of the CAP likely to emerge, the organisation says.

Commenting on the current state of the CAP negotiations, ICMSA president Pat McCormack said:

“It’s now a question of the Irish government working towards getting the maximum flexibility that will allow us to mitigate the worst results of the very flawed logic behind this CAP.

“There’s a fundamental incoherence and unfairness about a CAP system that takes money from someone farming for a living with an overall payment of €10,000 to fund additional payments to someone – usually a less active farmer – who might already be in receipt of a payment of €50,000.

Describing such an issue as a “basic problem” and one that “this model of convergence can never reconcile”, the president added:

“We keep being told what the motives behind the new system are, but the motives are not what matters – what matters is the outcome.

“The outcome of this is going to be a disadvantage to the people actually farming the land in favour of the people who own the land.

“That can’t be right and is, in our opinion, a negation of the founding principle of CAP which was the supply of food through farming – not a support system for landowners,” said McCormack.

On the approach being taken to capping maximum payments, the ICMSA president pulled no punches, claiming:

“We’re already seeing and hearing all the elementary sub-division ruses and structures that will easily circumvent the maximum payments ceiling.

“Again, we have a reform that is so easily swerved around that it’s difficult not to come to the conclusion that the long-term aim here is to actually make the whole idea of direct supports disreputable.

“It’s as if there’s some ‘long game’ at work where necessary reforms are botched so badly and obviously that at some point in the future, the atmosphere changes from ‘reform’ to ‘ending altogether’.

“That might seem cynical, but at this stage the damage being done to the principle and operation of CAP is so deep and irreversible that we have to think that this is moving past mere incompetence and into something more deliberate.

Concluding, McCormack warned that commercial family farming is “being threatened by this unworkable repurposing of CAP” away from active farming and food production and towards the owning of land.