New Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary was only minutes into his new role when he heard the first mention of convergence.
Shortly after An Taoiseach Micheál Martin nominated the Ballina native, Sligo-Leitrim TD Marian Harkin took to the floor to congratulate her fellow TD from Connaught and urge him to continue the convergence of farm payments.
One of Calleary’s main responsibilities to the thousands of farmers in the west and northwest was, she said, to ensure the delivery of the Fianna Fáil and Green Party general election promises to continue flattening farm payments in the next CAP and crucially during the transition phase.
The redistribution of direct payments through convergence has been controversial since its introduction in the last round of CAP reforms. It has seen money taken from those with entitlements above the national average and moved to those below it. The dominant trend has been a movement of money to western farmers who traditional had smaller payments than those in the east.
As of 2019, the convergence process from the last CAP has reached its conclusion. There are now no entitlements with a value above €700/ha including greening and all are worth at least 60% of the national average of €265/ha.
However, the draft proposal for the next CAP has set a minimum target for all payments to reach at least 75% of the national average by 2026. Ireland will have the option to go above this target and at a faster rate if it wants.
With CAP set to be delayed, there will be a transitional phase which may delay any further convergence for at least a year if not two. Harkin, along with some farm organisations such as the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA), has said convergence should not be stopped for this length of time.
In contrast, the Department of Agriculture has recommended that convergence be paused until the final shape of the CAP reform is agreed. Other farm organisations, such as the IFA have said farmers on low payments need to be increased but not by using other farmers’ money.
Harkin said further convergence would be vital "in helping to sustain agriculture and food production in the west and northwest".