The recent agreement on a new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform package was greeted with mixed views by local farmers, who spoke to the Leader about the matter at Ballymahon Mart last Thursday.
The new agreement allows the negotiation process to move to the final stage of the negotiations, where the Irish presidency will represent the Council in discussions with European Parliament and with the Commission.
“It’s looking better for the smaller farmer, as far as I can see,” said one farmer candidly. “No one really knows yet, what will happen, but agriculture is keeping the communities of this country going, and farmers spend the money locally.”
Matthew Farrell from Athlone was also at the mart . He was selling a few bullocks and pointed out that it was very likely the new CAP deal could “divide farmers”. “If you ask me, this is a political stunt - however there are more small farmers than there are big ones, so we will have to see how it all goes,” he added.
“This could divide farmers because the big man doesn’t want to know and the small man won’t have a lot anyway.”
Under the new agreement, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney TD said that flexibility with direct payments, within member states, would continue, and he also pointed out, that, “alternative models” such as the ‘first hectares’ redistributive payment and the extension of the Single Farm Payment Scheme would continue until at least 2020.
Back at Ballymahon Mart, Peter Skelly said that the latest CAP manoeuvre in Brussels would have a negative impact on the “productive farmer”.
“I, for one, could lose my entitlements,” he fumed.
“People will end up, getting out of breeding cows altogether and there will be no supplements at all, that’s what will happen.”
Another farmer then pointed out that, more information was necessary. “If I knew more about the CAP deal, I would understand what was going on, and have a lot more to say,” he added. “But if they take the smaller farmer out of the equation - that will be a very bad move. The majority of farmers in the Shannonside region are small farmers, so a negative impact from CAP will not be good.”
This week, the Special Agriculture Committee will conclude the Council’s negotiating mandate before moving to the next phase of CAP.
“We must acknowledge that the new agreement is only an interim success, and we need to move on quickly from here and build on the momentum of the last week, which has also seen the European Parliament finalise its position on the CAP reform package,” Minister Coveney added.
He encouraged all parties to have their say in the coming weeks.