More than three years after then Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan announced the framework proposals for the next CAP, it is moving from theory to reality for Irish farmers.

The consultation launched by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and due to run for four weeks is intended to scope out what exactly the latest reform will mean for Irish farmers in the fields.

Where theory meets reality is where tough choices have to be made. The EU has set out a series of minimum requirements on the big issues such as convergence, maximum payments, front loading, redistribution etc.

However, in a move originally intended by the Commission to take the facility for blaming Brussels for unpopular decisions away from national governments, member states have now a degree of flexibility in shaping how the CAP is delivered.


This is why Minister McConalogue is on the road consulting with farmers. The problem the minster will find – and I expect he already knows – is that the basis of this CAP is taking from some farmers to give to others. That means winners and losers and any consultation will reflect what specific farmers find that suits them and their own circumstance.

Even after this consultation, there will still be quite a distance to travel before Irish farmers start to see the practicalities of CAP 2020’s style.

The Government has between now and the end of the year to finalise the delivery plan for the CAP but then the EU will require most of 2022 for the approval process. It is intended that the new model will come into effect on 1 January 2023 – four and a half years after the first proposals were made by the Commission.

Changes will be visible

Irrespective of the consultation that is underway, farmers will immediately notice significant changes.

These effectively make it a Common Environmental Policy, and farmers that capture the best payments will not be those that breed the best cattle or sheep nor the highest-yielding cows. What will score for top payments is a demonstrable ability to reduce emissions and introduce enhanced environmental measures. For farmers working on more marginal land, this will present real options but doesn’t particular work for farms with high output potential.

Clear direction of future travel

There is also an issue with the direction of travel. Last time a compulsory element of convergence was introduced, it was added to 100% convergence is on the horizon.

This time, at least 25% of the farmer’s direct payment is set aside to find environmental schemes that farmers have to apply for in attempt to get their money back.

It doesn’t require much of a leap of imagination to see this percentage being increased in future to a point where support is removed completely from farming to land management for environmental purposes.