Farmers cannot be expected to sign a blank cheque in order to establish a national reserve, according to Pat McCormack, deputy prsident of ICMSA.
The Tipperary farmer was speaking following a meeting of the Direct Payments Advisory Group Meeting, and said his organisation will insist that a maximum funding limit is put in place.
“Farmers have already lost 5 per cent of their BPS / Greening payment to establish a national reserve and Young Farmers Scheme, and in the context where many farmers see their payment declining annually due to convergence and where Brexit could lead to another 5 per cent to 10 per cent cut in payments, ICMSA will insist that the Minister cap the National Reserve at the current level,” he said.
Mr McCormack said ICMSA noted that the Young Farmers Scheme had an underspend of €5m - and that the Department accepted that farmers cannot be expected to add to these funds if the scheme were oversubscribed.
For very many farm families the BPS / Greening payment represents 100 per cent of their income and any cuts in these payments is a direct hit on family income. The proposal currently in place represents a 0.4 per cent cut in each farmer’s BPS / Greening payment.
“This is difficult enough, but farmers will certainly not accept further additions to this. Approximately €52m of farmers direct payments have been allocated to the national reserve and Young Farmers Scheme to date and this is the limit that farmers are prepared to accept,” said Mr McCormack.
The ICMSA deputy president said that in common with all schemes operated by the Department, in the event of the scheme being oversubscribed, decisions will have to be taken to bring the number of applicants into line with the funding available.
“ICMSA is also clearly saying that only deserving applicants should qualify for payments under the National Reserve and the terms and conditions must ensure that this is the case.
“Farmers are giving up a piece of their payment for the national reserve and they have a right to expect that it is going to deserving applicants,” he said.
Mr McCormack pointed out that both the EU and Department had consistently cut farmers’ payments over the years irrespective of whether a farmer has a small or large payment.