An Irish MEP is calling for the one-off lump sum payment from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Pillar II funds to be put into farmers’ hands as soon as possible.

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus welcomed the recent move by the European Commission to free-up funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) – which funds Pillar II payments – in order to provide a one-off payment to farmers and rural businesses.

However, he also stressed that: “We can only tinker with the CAP budget so much before we run out of road.”

The funding will be worth a maximum of €15,000/farmer or €100,000/business.

Speaking yesterday after a meeting of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee, MacManus said: “The commission’s proposal is recommending using the EAFRD to provide liquidity support to farmers, in particular those affected by feed, energy and fertiliser hikes.”

The Midlands North-West MEP also noted that preference will be given to farmers who engage in the circular economy, nutrient management and environmental protection.

He went on to explain that the commission has stipulated that the total value of the funding for the payment will not be over 5% of a member state’s total EAFRD envelope for the years 2021 to 2022.

“We need to get this money into the hands of farmers urgently,” MacManus stressed.

He highlighted that Ireland can start making payments to beneficiaries once it has informed the commission of a modification to its Rural Development Programme (RDP) to formally introduce the new payment measure.

MacManus acknowledged that the funding is a ‘cost neutral’ measure for the commission, i.e. because the measure is funded through money that was already in the EAFRD for each member state being redirected.

However, he argued that both this new measure along with others announced by the commission in recent weeks “are going to play a role in helping farmers hold on”.

The MEP also insisted there is only so much that can be done through the current CAP budget.

“The reality is that the continuous slashing of the CAP budget has left us ill-prepared for such a crisis,” he argued.

“This is not the fault of the commission but a failure of member states to appreciate the role our farmers play in food security for citizens.”

MacManus said that, while there were voices in the EU calling for “billions of euro” to be spent on EU militarisation in response to the war in Ukraine, he is “not confident” that those same voices would be equally concerned with the food security issues partly caused by that war.

“Once we get through this crisis, we must invest in making our European agricultural sector more resilient. This means, for example, utilising workable alternatives to nitrogen fertilisers, rolling out renewable energy schemes and growing more protein crops in the EU,” MacManus urged.

He argued: “This will only happen if the Irish government enters the next EU budget negotiations with a commitment to ensure the CAP is appropriately funded.”