Genuine farmer definition ‘not a satisfactory one’

The definition provided by the European Commission for a ‘genuine farmer’ is “not a satisfactory one“, the assistant secretary general of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Brendan Gleeson, has admitted.

Gleeson was part of a delegation from the department which appeared before the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine earlier this week (Tuesday, June 26) to discuss EU legislative proposals for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020.

The phrase ‘genuine farmer’ was coined when the legislative proposals were published at the beginning of this month.

According to the commission, the precise definition of a genuine farmer will be left up to each member state to decide. It is expected to be based on a number of factors such as income tests, labour inputs on the farm, the object clause of businesses and/or their inclusion in business registers.

Continuing, the commission said: “The definition must ensure that no support can be granted to those whose agricultural activity forms only an insignificant part of their overall economic activities or those whose principal business activity is not agricultural.

“The regulation also stipulates that the definition agreed in each member state must not exclude, by definition, pluri-active farmers – i.e. those who are actively farming, but who are also engaged in non-agricultural activities outside their farm.”

‘An appropriate definition’

Speaking at this week’s meeting of the Agriculture Committee, Gleeson said that the commission has “worked hard” on the definition it provided.

But I fear that, from an Irish perspective, it’s not a satisfactory one. Frankly the prospect of applying income or labour input tests prior to making direct payments is unrealistic.

“From the point of view of running a practical payment system, it would be immensely burdensome – impossible I think – to check those kinds of things.

“So we must continue in our quest for an appropriate definition,” he added.

Earlier this year, the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, gave an assurance that part-time farmers would continue to draw down payments under CAP post-2020.

Also Read: Hogan quashes concerns around part-time farmers’ CAP payments

Concluding, Gleeson outlined that the issue of a ‘genuine farmer’ came up a lot during the CAP consultation meetings organised by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

“Everybody was able to say what wasn’t a genuine farmer, but no one gave us a definition of what was a genuine farmer. There are very emotive issues around the definition of a genuine farmer,” he said.