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NEXT CAP MUST DELIVER STRONG ENVIRONMENTAL SCHEME FOR HILL FARMERS

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NEXT CAP MUST DELIVER STRONG ENVIRONMENTAL SCHEME FOR HILL FARMERS

 

IFA has called for a strong environmental scheme to be put in place for upland areas which recognises the contribution hill farmers make in terms of protecting the environment, carbon mitigation and the provision of public goods.

Opening the IFA 2019 National Hill Sheep Forum in Glendalough Co. Wicklow, IFA South Leinster Chairman Tom Short said that the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and the EU Commission must recognise and reward the positive value that hill farmers bring to climate action.

“Farm incomes are under serious pressure in these areas and the value of the environment must be taken alongside agricultural production in the formulation of supports to hill farmers,” he said.

Tom Short said this can only be done by a combination of cattle and sheep production, direct payments and a strong environmental scheme in the forthcoming CAP negotiations. “Hill sheep production is the predominant enterprise among the 30,000 farmers who farm and protect the environment in hill and mountain grazing areas.”

He said the forthcoming 2019 ANC payment increase, secured by the IFA in last year’s Budget, is an important income boost, but this must be followed by further direct payment supports.

Speaking to hill farmers from around the country, the IFA South Leinster Chairman said the impact of Brexit will be felt in all farms, particularly the most vulnerable such as those in mountain and hill areas.

Hill Sheep priorities

IFA National Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy said that a targeted direct payment for sheep must be part of the next CAP, with a substantial increase on the rate from the current level of €10 per ewe in the Sheep Welfare scheme. He said IFA has proposed a targeted payment of €30 per ewe.

“This level of support is necessary to sustain sheep numbers in hill areas where keeping stock is essential to the maintenance of the environment. Farm incomes in hill areas according to the Teagasc National Farm Survey are some of the lowest in the agricultural sector and are very dependent on direct payments.”

Out of a total of 2.5m breeding ewes in Ireland, Sean Dennehy said 49% are of a mountain breed. He said the 2018 Sheep Census shows that there are 800,133 mountain breeding ewes and a further 448,412 mountain cross breeding ewes in the country.

Sean Dennehy said the development of lamb markets which return a strong viable price for quality lamb was essential to the sheep sector. He said Irish lamb is a top quality natural light meat produced in the perfect environment to the highest standards in the world.

“Sheep farmers are very frustrated when the see lamb prices constantly under pressure and more costs being pushed back on them all the time with the likes of compulsory EID tagging this year. Minister Creed and the meat processors have yet to show sheep farmers any benefit from EID tagging other than additional costs, bureaucracy and red tape.”

Hill farming supports

In relation to the environmental schemes, National Hill Committee Chairman Flor McCarthy said the current GLAS scheme is not rewarding the environmental good that hill farms provide. The current max payment at €5,000 is too low and should be increased to €10,000 in the next CAP. Farmers who have designated Natura land are not being properly compensated for restrictions and these high nature value areas must have a meaningful scheme in the next RDP.

The recent expenditure review from the Department of Public expenditure highlights that around 10% of GLAS payments are paid on commonage land to 8,890 farmers in the scheme. The potential of commonage land is not fully reached, as 13,000 farmers claim commonage land, meaning a significant amount of such land is not in the scheme.

One of the big challenges for hill farmers is maintaining eligibility for their land for payments. IFA is calling for flexibility in the next CAP which would allow farmers to be rewarded for a biodiversity value.

Flor McCarthy said the increase in the ANC payments this year to a maximum in hill areas of €4,240 is welcome. However, the Minister’s decision to split the payment 85%/15% is disappointing. It sends a very poor signal to farmers who desperately need these payments.

In the next Rural Development Plan, IFA will be making a strong case for the maximum payment to increase to €6,000. This payment is necessary due to the limitations on land usage and low level of farm income.

 

The IFA Hill Chairman warned that the Government must put in place a properly-funded Rural Development Plan up to 2027 of €5bn. This is 25% greater than the existing programme. This will allow meaningful measures across a wide range of issues many of them of significance to hill farmers.

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Farming

IFA Raises Payment Concerns with Dept at Charter of Rights Meeting

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Speaking at a Charter of Rights meeting with the Department of Agriculture this week, the IFA Deputy President Brian Rushe said it’s absolutely essential that the maximum number of applicants in tranche 19 of TAMS are approved as soon as possible to provide certainty to farmers who are planning to carry out work.

IFA Rural Development Chairman Michael Biggins welcomed confirmation that payment of the ANC balancing payment will commence next week.

He stressed the importance of paying the remaining farmers as soon as they meet their stocking density requirements, which the Dept confirmed happens on a weekly basis.  Farmers will be paid as soon as they meet the required stocking density, which in some cases will run to the end of the year.

Michael Biggins also called on the Dept to pay the ANC to farmers who omitted in error to tick the ANC box on their BPS application this year.  “A system where a farmer has to ‘opt out’ rather the ‘opt in’ would ensure there are fewer errors when submitting applications,” he said.

IFA Deputy President Brian Rushe welcomed the payment of the BPS balancing payment which commenced this week.  “The Dept also confirmed the issue around transfer of entitlement, which held up payments of around 1,000 farmers, has been resolved for most at this stage and the remaining ones will be resolved in the next week,” he said.

IFA National Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden has welcomed DAFM facilitation of farmers who made ‘Draft applications’ to BEEP-S scheme and who had operated under the impression they were participating in the scheme by carrying out measures on their farms. IFA had raised this issue directly with the Department of Agriculture and the acceptance of these farmers into the scheme is the right decision.

Regarding the Beef Finishers Payment, Brendan Golden again called for cattle exported for slaughter in the reference period to be paid on from the surplus in the Beef Finishers Payment fund.

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Farming

IFA Launches Guide to Personal Insolvency Arrangements

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IFA National Farm Business Chair Rose Mary McDonagh and Martin Stapleton, Chairman of the IFA Debt Support Service, have launched a Guide to Personal Insolvency Arrangements (PIA).

IFA Debt Support Service was established following the last recession to provide specific support to farmers in arrears.

The confidential service is comprised of an experienced team of IFA volunteers working with professional support to provide assistance to IFA members in financial difficulty.

Martin Stapleton said IFA has worked with over 500 farmers over the last few years. While the numbers in difficulty are reducing, recent weeks have seen an increase in activity from vulture funds since the COVID-19 Payment Breaks came to an end.

“This guide is available on IFA’s website and will serve as a useful resource for farmers in arrears seeking to protect their family home and farm land,” he said.

A Personal Insolvency Arrangement (PIA) is a debt resolution mechanism outlined in the Personal Insolvency Act, which acts as an insolvency solution for people with unsecured and secured debt.

Rose Mary McDonagh added that a PIA can provide a debtor with protection from their creditors and on completion, a debtor will return to solvency.

At present, the Oireachtas is considering one of two Bills which will reform the area of personal insolvency and amend the current eligibility requirements for a PIA. Rose Mary McDonagh said the definition of relevant debt should be expanded to include debt prior to 2015, and debt secured in or over a debtor’s income reliant/core asset.

The IFA Debt Support Service can be contacted, in confidence, at 1890 924 853.

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Farming

EU Must Complete an Impact Assessment of Green Strategies

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Speaking after a meeting of European Farm Leaders (COPA) with EU Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans yesterday, IFA President Tim Cullinan said that the EU must complete a full impact assessment of the EU Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies.

“I told the Commissioner a full impact assessment is needed to determine how much implementing these strategies will cost,” he said.

“Frans Timmermans has threatened to withdraw the Commission’s own CAP proposal if it doesn’t take more account of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies. Yet he has no idea how much these strategies will cost or who will pay for them,” he said.

“People are quoting all these targets without any consideration for their impact on output or on production costs of farmers. Farmers cannot be left to carry the can on this,” he said.

“We also need Teagasc to do an assessment of the impact in Ireland. We are currently deep in discussions on the Agrifood 2030 strategy, but again we have a data vacuum,” he said.

“It’s incredible that the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture has examined the impact of ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy on farm incomes, output and trade and neither the EU nor Ireland has,” he said.

“The US report predicts that as a result of the strategy, farm incomes would be reduced by 16%. This is as a consequence of the expected loss of production by 12% across the EU which would not be offset by the 17% increase in market prices.”

“If these measures were implemented, the report predicts a loss in output at an EU level which would cause exports to fall by 20% and imports would increase by 2%. The knock-on effect of these changes in trade is predicted to increase the cost of food by €132 per person in the EU.”

“If these figures are correct, they would be devastating for European farmers. Yet the EU Commission doesn’t know, or won’t tell us, what their assessment of the impact will be,” he said.

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