‘Large processors to be blocked from receiving CAP payments’

Member states will have the option of excluding large-scale processors of agricultural produce from receiving Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments under the next programme, MEP Mairead McGuinness has stated.

Following today’s vote by the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee on CAP reform, direct payments will be conditional on farmers complying with a series of environmental measures.

These include: maintenance of wetland and peatland in sensitive areas of Natura 2000; crop rotation on arable land; and the establishment of buffer strips along water courses.

In a statement to AgriLand, the First Vice President of the European Parliament also outlined that new eco-schemes “will offer support” to farmers that adopt nutrient management plans, dedicate a minimum share of agricultural area to non-productive features and for the appropriate maintenance of wetland and peatland.

The committee also wants 20% of member states’ direct payment envelopes to be dedicated to eco-schemes – which go beyond the requirements for receipt of basic payments.

Additionally, member states must earmark at least 2% for the Young Farmers Scheme with an additional top-up payment granted for the first seven years after the application.

A mandatory re-distributive payment of at least 5% from Pillar I payments is, meanwhile, expected to result in money moving from larger to smaller farms.

On capping, member states will be required to reduce payments above €100,000 – with account taken for part of the on-farm labour costs.

Significantly, the parliament has also called for full convergence of payments by the end of the next programming period of 2027 – with 23 votes in favour, 21 against and one abstention.

Complex Reality

McGuinness described the outcome as “positive” for farmers with low-value entitlements that also have low overall payments.

However, she said “it is a concern” for those farmers that have just a small number of entitlements above the average level and whose total payment is small. “They will lose under the proposal,” she said.

“I am also concerned about the unintended consequence of convergence where full-time farm families with above the average entitlement value will lose money – while land owners with significant off-farm income will gain at their expense.

Those who paint convergence as simply taking from the rich to give to the poor ignore the complex reality at farm level.

“Some of these unintended consequences may be mitigated by capping and redistribution of payments; but they do need to be taken account of,” she said.

Letter to Creed

The Midlands-North West representative has written to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, calling for an “impact assessment” to be carried out on full convergence on family farm income and output – plus, a detailed analysis of the changes in family farm structures.

“This is an opportunity for Ireland to adopt a land use policy taking into account sectoral issues, regional aspects and incorporating environment, biodiversity and climate action.

I have written to the minister urging him to seize the opportunity and come up with an overall land use policy to take account of climate and environment issues including biodiversity.

“This plan must focus on the balance between beef, dairy, tillage, horticulture, forestry, bio-energy and renewable energy production,” McGuinness said.

It is now widely understood that the reform of the next CAP will not be completed until the new parliament is in place next autumn.

Further changes are expected before farm ministers, the parliament and the commission sit down to thrash out the final shape of the new programme for post-2020.