Association highlights crucial changes required to the rural development programme.
ICSA president Patrick Kent and general secretary Eddie Punch met last week with the newly appointed Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.
According to ICSA president Patrick Kent there was a constructive exchange of views on a range of issues including the new sheep scheme, making the BDGP more attractive, restoration of ANC (previously DAS) payments and the threats to the beef sector.
“ICSA set out key changes required to the rural development programme. All rural development schemes need to be more farmer friendly. We want to see a sheep scheme that works for sheep farmers with minimum red tape and cost. An important clarification is that the sheep scheme does not have to be all about climate change as is the BDGP and so there is scope for innovative ideas which are not necessarily about breeding efficiencies.
“ICSA also argued for optional extra payments under the BDGP for calf weighing. ICSA believes that while there might be scope to get more farmers into the scheme, we must ensure that we hold what we already have. ICSA believes additional top up payments on an optional basis would help secure the numbers already in the scheme which must be done before we look at trying to get new participants.
“On GLAS, ICSA criticised the curtailing of the low input permanent pasture measure in the second tranche. Regarding ANC, ICSA welcomes the commitment to restore some of the ANC money to the tune of €25 million but we are insisting that the ambition must be a full reversal of cuts imposed by austerity. This would require somewhat over €60 million but it must be remembered that the scheme is vital to the more marginal farmers and it is the most efficient way of delivering an income boost to thousands of farmers hit by the original cuts.”
There was also a wide ranging discussion on the various trade talks with ICSA emphasising the need for ongoing vigilance against concessions on tariff rate quotas. “ICSA is pleased to see that tariff rate quotas for beef were not included in the exchange of offers between the EU and the Mercosur (South American) countries. ICSA’s recent protest was to demonstrate the anger of farmers and the threat to the Irish economy of trade deals which sacrifice beef and we underlined our concern to the Minister that the threat has not gone away.”
On direct payments, ICSA outlined the need for a more efficient way of dealing with farmers with delayed payments in 2016. The association also called for a full review of the national reserve pointing out that there were still young farmers left behind who started farming before 2008 . “However, ICSA also suggested that it was in nobody’s interest to allow allocations to be made on an ongoing basis to young farmers who have not completed their agricultural education. We also need to examine whether it is desirable to allocate entitlements on the basis of uncertain conacre arrangements which leave the young farmer very exposed.”
ICSA also raised the need for proper supports for hen harrier farmers in addition to the GLAS option which is totally insufficient as it is limited to 19 ha. “While the locally led schemes may be a help, a laissez faire approach to gradually developing plans is not acceptable for the hen harrier farmers who are left high and dry. ICSA also warned that there is a lot of uncertainty around land eligibility questions and while recent clarifications on designated ground are welcome, the proof will be in the inspections pudding.”