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As consultation continues on Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan, a number of decisions have been made with regard to the targeting of direct payments under Pillar 1.

On Wednesday, 20th October, Minister for Agricultural Charlie McConalogue announced that direct payments would be:

  • Capped at €66,000, the maximum cap possible under the EU regulation,
  • Would be subject to internal convergence of up to 85% by 2026, a condition mandatory for all EU countries under the incoming reformed policy,
  • Would also be subject to a 10% cut, to fund the front-loading of payments on the first 30ha, at €44/ha.
  • Ireland will not make use of the flexibility for funding environmental measures under pillars 1 and 2 and will implemented eco-schemes under Pillar 1 at the maximum of 25%.

ICOS is very concerned about the impact of these decisions on the level of support for commercial dairy family farms.  With them, the Irish government has effectively opted for the maximum redistribution of support from commercial, more productive farms, with high investment and regulatory costs, and supporting full time farmers and their families, to less productive, less cost intensive farms, with knock-on implications for local agri-markets and the multiplier impact of CAP funding within our rural economies.

Also announced was the level funding dedicated to Pillar 2 schemes, including:

  • €1.5 billion for the successor of GLAS, the Agri-Environment Climate Measure (AECM), which is aimed to be taken up by 50,000 farmers, with most of these farmers potentially able to access up to €7,000. However, achieving this maximum amount will be determined on the basis of results of actions in certain cases, not the undertaking of the actions themselves and therefore further information will be needed on how to ensure this money is accessible and rewards farmers for creating the best possible environment.
  • €1.25 billion is to be dedicated to payments for Areas of Natural Constraint, which will continue in its current format, which supports 100,000 farmers.
  • €300m has been given to the On-Farm Capital Investment Scheme, which will replace TAMS, for the period 2023-2027, for which the eligible investments are still under review.  Grant aid will be provided at a rate of 40%, except for young farmers and female applicants who will be supported at a higher rate of 60% to promote gender diversity and generational renewal within the sector.
  • €256m has been allocated to the organic farming scheme, a major increase in comparison to the existing programme, in recognition of the EU Farm to Fork Objectives, with the national aim of achieving a target of 7.5% of agricultural land being farmed organically by 2027.
  • €25m has been allocated for the new Dairy Beef welfare scheme, which will be open to dairy farmers, to support the uptake of actions on sexed semen, genotyping, high DBI and forage quality. However, the maximum number of eligible animals per applicant is 40.

These decisions are still subject to final sign off and ICOS continues to engage with the DAFM on a number of issues, for example, the options available to famers under eco-schemes, the availability for investment support for dairy equipment, the mandatory application of 4% non-productive areas on pasture land and the targeting of support towards active, commercial and productive farmers. The next step will be a consultation on CAP Strategic Plan in November, before it is finalised in December and submitted to the European Commission for approval before the 1st January 2022 deadline.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive