Time to wake up to SFP cuts

Irish Independent - Farming - - Comment -

FI­NALLY, there ap­pears to be more in­for­ma­tion on what all the CAP re­form changes will mean at the end of the day for farm­ers.

The Depart­ment has spun it that 52,000 farm­ers re­ceiv­ing less than €5,000 a year in their Sin­gle Farm Pay­ment (SFP) will be ex­empt from cuts for this year’s pay­ment.

But that neatly ig­nores the fact that the ma­jor­ity, com­prised of 80,000, will see their pay­ments cut by al­most 10pc next Oc­to­ber.

Fig­ures on how much each farmer will loose or gain over the next five years are also start­ing to emerge.

While ev­ery re­form of the EU’s mas­sive €55bn CAP fund prom­ises to re­duce red-tape, it is clear that ev­ery re­form fur­ther com­pli­cates what is al­ready a mind-bog­gling sys­tem.

Talk to any­body who deals reg­u­larly with farm­ers on SFP is­sues, and they will all ad­mit that the vast ma­jor­ity are com­pletely bam­boo­zled by the sys­tem.

Is this the rea­son that most have not en­gaged with the process as it is thrashed out? Af­ter all, the ma­jor­ity of farm­ers stood to gain un­der Com­mis­sioner Ci­o­los’s pro­pos­als, but th­ese have been largely re­jected by the Ir­ish ad­min­is­tra­tion. Why did the ma­jor­ity not fight harder for their share?

Fíanna Fáil’s agri­cul­ture spokesman, Ea­monn Ó Cuiv, is em­bark­ing on another na­tion­wide tour to can­vass farm­ers for sup­port for his al­ter­na­tive pro­pos­als. He in­sists that the re­forms are not a done deal yet and that there is a fairer way to di­vide up the €6.1bn that will flow into farmer’s bank ac­counts over the next five years.

But it is hard to en­vis­age any ma­jor U-turns on the Ir­ish pol­icy di­rec­tion at this stage. A huge amount of work has gone into get­ting the cur­rent pro­pos­als to this point. Nei­ther Depart­ment of­fi­cials nor farm­ers have an ap­petite for get­ting bogged down in try­ing to re-engi­neer how the sys­tem will work.

As it is, there are still a large num­ber of is­sues that re­main to be re­solved.

What will hap­pen to farm­ers who leased in or out their en­tire SFP last year? Is it the ac­tual pay­ment you re­ceive in 2014 or the value of your en­ti­tle­ments (used and un­used) that will be counted from 2015? Will the green­ing pay­ment be paid out with the rest of the SFP? What will be the min­i­mum stock­ing rate that will be re­quired to ac­ti­vate a pay­ment?

There’s a lot still to be thrashed out, and maybe Deputy Ó Cuiv will suc­ceed in al­ter­ing the shape of things to come. But it’s go­ing to re­quire a lot of farm­ers to sud­denly wake up to the fact that the ma­jor­ity of their farm in­come for the next five years hangs in the bal­ance.

LAST week, I turned 50. Yeah, I know, it’s rare to hear a woman talk­ing about her age, es­pe­cially when it’s that kind of age. In our heav­ily North Amer­i­can in­flu­enced so­ci­ety, be­ing young or at least look­ing young is highly de­sir­able. But some peo­ple are old at 30, oth­ers young at 70. And, there’s no time limit on life.

Left to my own de­vices, I would have been happy enough to let my birth­day pass qui­etly un­der the radar but a friend who re­cently hit the half cen­tury her­self was in­tent in en­sur­ing oth­er­wise.

So I had the op­tion to ei­ther fight it or em­brace it. I started look­ing at my life to date and at my own fam­ily, where my fa­ther died aged 42 and one of my two brothers, Johnny, died at the age of 24. Wouldn’t ei­ther of them loved to have reached this mile­stone?

I grew up on a farm and farm­ing has essen­tially been the sound­track to my life. One of my ear­li­est mem­o­ries is of steer­ing a trac­tor down a hill in a field in a very low gear as my dad threw hay off the trailer be­hind to what I pre­sume were wean­lings.

I also re­mem­ber clearly the bright red colour of a re­con­di­tioned Massey Fer­gu­son 135 which we got some years later.

This was the trac­tor that crawled in from the meadow with tee­ter­ing loads of square hay bales with us perched on top, mess­ing when we weren’t peel­ing

AD­VEN­TURE

Ours was an av­er­age un­der­de­vel­oped mixed farm on typ­i­cal West Lim­er­ick land, dairy cows (a three-unit bucket plant from the ’70s into the ’80s) with the male calves sold as stores.

Un­for­tu­nately, one win­ter in the early 1980s, a lot of cows died from sal­mo­nella which meant that when quo­tas were in­tro­duced in 1984 my Mum got a very low al­lo­ca­tion. Life wasn’t easy but we never wanted for

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