I attended a recent Irish Grain Growers’ Group (IGGG) meeting, at which, the issue of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) entitlements was discussed at length.

The organisation points to a €21 million annual deficit in entitlement values that tillage farmers across Ireland are now facing, thanks to the implementation of Ireland’s new CAP Strategic Plan.

To be honest, I hadn’t given the debate on the evolution of the new CAP policies thorough examination up to now. But as I listened to the various points made by IGGG members earlier this week, two questions crossed my mind.

Firstly, why did the Irish government not insist on farmers re-registering their entitlements afresh, tying in with the start of the new CAP period?

And secondly, why is the archaic practice of leasing entitlements still allowed within a support system that is supposed to help ‘active farmers’?

CAP entitlements

The reality remains, that the CAP support system now being operated by the Irish government is totally historic in nature. The entitlement system reflects the state of farming that was in existence many years ago – not the here and now.

Had farmers been mandated to set the clock at zero and freshly register entitlements, based on the land areas they farmed in 2022, then the issue of the current CAP support deficit within the tillage sector might have been managed on a more realistic basis.

I also feel strongly that the practice of leasing out entitlements should be abolished. In my opinion, land owners with entitlements to lease, are not actively farming.

So why should they be getting support that, otherwise, could be made available to new entrants into agriculture and those producers seeking to further develop their own farming businesses?

Europe keeps telling us that it wants a more streamlined farm support system. So, why can’t Brussels, or Dublin for that matter, bring us to a point where this has become a reality? 

Nothing can be done to change the detail of the Ireland’s agreed CAP plan for the period 2023-2027. But discussions on what will be agreed for 2028 and beyond are soon to get underway.

Is it time to fundamentally review the Pillar I support systems available to Europe’s farmers? I think so.

In the meantime farmers, will have no option but to settle down and work through the entitlement changes that have been introduced this year – there are many and they are significant.

I would strongly advise all those submitting a basic payment application later in the spring to get the advice they need now, rather than leaving it all to the end of April or first week of May.