INHFA: ‘Real possibility’ of CAP being delayed by over a year

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) has warned that low income farmers need to be protected if a new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) deal is delayed.

Colm O’Donnell, the association’s president, said that “there is a real possibility of any new CAP deal not starting until 2021 or even 2022” as a result of Brexit uncertainty.

He argued that farmers on low Pillar I payments are dependent on additional support from Pillar II schemes, and will need to be protected if there is a delay.

O’Donnell highlighted that, when previous CAP programmes did not start as expected, measures were put in place to ensure that schemes were rolled over. He argued that the Government would need to get “clarity” from the EU that similar regulations would be put in place if needs be.

“Schemes such as the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme [GLAS], and the Beef Data and Genomics Programme [BDGP] are for a set number of years, and need more consideration,” he said, as opposed to annual payment-based schemes.

Another concern the group highlighted was the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS); O’Donnell claimed that farmers that have been coming out of AEOS may have to wait for three to four years to join GLAS – something he said was “unacceptable”.

The organisation is calling for the re-opening of GLAS for a five year term to accommodate farmers not in any agri-environmental scheme and a commitment to extend it for any farmer whose contract may end prior to the commencement of a new CAP programme.

O’Donnell also called for “a commitment to continue the sheep welfare scheme into the new CAP Programme; and for our suckling sector, which is in crisis, the establishment of a targeted suckler-weanling welfare scheme with simple measures, similar to the sheep welfare scheme, and paying up to €200 per cow or weanling”.

He concluded by arguing for the continued convergence of payments, saying they should “continue to increase in the coming years towards the national average, and not be left on hold at the current 60% level because no CAP deal has being finalised”.