COMMENT: The issue of single farm payment (SFP) entitlements – and who will own what after 2015 – is one that must be clarified by the Department of Agriculture as a matter of priority. It is further confused by the reality that under the new CAP regime, entitlements can only be claimed by ‘active farmers’.

What is certain is that Ireland will have to start afresh in terms of deciding who draws down entitlements in 2015 and how these will be distributed. All of this brings into clear focus the subject of just how complicated the issue of CAP Reform has become. And that, really, should not be the case.

Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos started down the road of the current CAP Reform process some three years ago, promising us that we would have a more stream lined and straightforward CAP support system. However, the reality has turned out to be something entirely different. But that’s all rear view mirror stuff now.

The key requirement now is for the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to lay out the enabling legislation for the new CAP arrangements in short order. This will give total clarity to all interested parties – farmers and landowners. Minister Coveney is, quite rightly, seeking a soft landing to the current milk quota regime. So, surely the same principle must hold when it comes to teasing out the deals of the new CAP arrangements.

From next year onwards, the SFP will be worth €1.3bn per annum to the Irish economy. That’s a lot of money. However, it is crucially important that these monies go to the people that deserve them most. And in the context of the Harvest 2020 plan, this means ensuring that those farmers with the scope to grow their businesses are facilitated in every way. The recent downturn in beef prices is further proof that the market will always deliver the returns that producers need to make a sustainable living.

And, at the end of the day, that’s what this is all about – providing farmers with a degree of certainty regarding the future prospects for their businesses.