European Commission officially unveils CAP 2020 proposals
European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan announced on Friday his plans for a modernised, simplified CAP post-2020.

With a budget of €365bn, the Common Agricultural Policy proposals give member states greater flexibility and responsibility for choosing how and where to invest their CAP funding. However, they will each have to meet goals set at EU level towards a smart, resilient, sustainable and competitive agricultural sector, while at the same time ensuring a fair and better targeted support of farmers' income.

The main features of the Commission’s proposals CAP 2020 are:

1. A new way of working: member states will have more flexibility in how to use their funding allocations, allowing them to design programmes that respond to farmers' and wider rural communities' concerns. Member states will also have the option to transfer up to 15% of their CAP allocations between direct payments and rural development and vice-versa to ensure that their priorities and measures can be funded. A level playing-field among member states will be ensured through:

  • Strategic plans covering the whole period, setting out how each member state intends to meet nine EU-wide economic, environmental and social objectives, using both direct payments and rural development. The Commission will approve each plan to ensure consistency and the protection of the single market.
  • The Commission will follow each country's performance and progress towards the agreed targets.
  • 2. Better targeting of support: direct payments will remain an essential part of the policy, ensuring stability and predictability for farmers. Priority will be given to supporting the small and medium-sized farms that constitute the majority of the EU’s farming sector, and to helping young farmers. The Commission remains committed to external convergence.

    Direct payments to farmers above a threshold €60,000 will be reduced and capped for payments above €100,000 per farm. Labour costs will be taken fully into account.

    Front loading: small and medium-sized farms will receive a higher level of support per hectare.

    Countries will have to set aside at least 2% of their direct payment allocation for helping young farmers' get set up. This will be complemented by financial support for rural development and different measures facilitating access to land and land transfers.

    3. Environmental and climate action: climate change, natural resources, biodiversity, habitats and landscapes are all addressed. Farmers' income support is already linked to the application of environment and climate-friendly practices and the new CAP will include mandatory and incentive-based measures:

  • Direct payments will be conditional on enhanced environmental and climate requirements.
  • Each member state will have to offer eco-schemes to support farmers in going beyond the mandatory requirements, funded with a share of their national direct payments' allocations.
  • At least 30% of each rural development national allocation will be dedicated to environmental and climate measures.
  • 40% of the CAP's overall budget is expected to contribute to climate action.
  • In addition to the possibility to transfer 15% between pillars, member states will also have the possibility to transfer an additional 15% from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 for spending on climate and environment measures (without national co-financing).
  • 4. Greater use of knowledge and innovation: The CAP will include a budget of €10bn from the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme set aside for research and innovation projects in food, agriculture, rural development and bioeconomy.

    Member states will be encouraged to use big data and new technologies for controls and monitoring (for example, verifying farm sizes for direct payment claims using satellite data).

    Countries must also step up the digitisation of rural life, for example through extending broadband access in rural regions.

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    Over 400 farmers travel to fourth tyre recycling centre
    The fourth tyre recycling centre was at Gortdrum Mines in Monard, Co Tipperary, on Saturday.

    A total of 850 tonnes of tyres were collected from 400 farmers in Tipperary on Saturday. The average volume collected at each of the four bring centres now stands at 1,000t.

    While this is the final planned disposal day with the Irish Farm Films Producers Group (IFFPG), farmers have called for further "bring centres".

    The IFA is calling for a national scheme to be rolled out so that there is one recycling point opened in each county.

    IFA environment chair Thomas Cooney said the association has sought a meeting with Minister for State at the Department of Environment Seán Canney.

    “We look forward to working with him and his officials to build on the good work so far and ensure we all play our part in keeping the countryside clean,” Cooney said.

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    Irish farms among the most valuable in the EU
    A combination of high land prices and low debt makes the net value of Irish farms among the highest in Europe.

    The average Irish farm has a net value of just under €1m, the fourth highest among the 28 EU member states, a comparison of 2015 farm accounting data by the European Commission has found.

    UK farms are the most valuable, with a net worth of €1.8m on average, followed by the Netherlands at €1.6m and farms in Denmark at just over €1m.

    By contrast, the average Romanian farm is worth just €33,700, the lowest net worth in the EU.

    Irish farms hold on average €1m worth of assets, higher than the EU average of €338,600, but only in sixth position in the EU league. Nearly 90% of those assets are land, with only UK farms locking more of their value into farmland.

    Meanwhile Irish farms have very low debt levels, far smaller than the EU average of €54,500. Recent CSO figures show that most farms don't have any debt, and the 35% who do owe an average of €60,000 only. Moreover, Irish farmers have secured long-term loans in much larger proportions than their counterparts in most other EU countries, who are more exposed to the need of constantly refinancing short-term loans.

    High solvency

    As a result, Irish farms have the lowest liabilities-to-assets ratio, under 3%, described by the Commission as a sign of high solvency. "In the case of Ireland, the low liabilities-to-assets ratio mainly reflects relatively high asset values when compared to low liabilities," analysts wrote.

    The high value of Irish farms is not reflected in their income ranking. The average Irish farm's net income was higher than the EU average but ranked in 11th position only, far behind the Dutch leaders.

    Irish farmers were also the third most reliant on direct payments for their income, with only Greek and Finnish farmers receiving a larger proportion of their income from the BPS system.

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    Comer brothers close in on sale of GAA land
    The 103 acres that was bought by the GAA for €2.8m during the boom is nearing a sale for a reported €750,000 or €7,300/ac.

    The sale of 103 acres at Mountain South is imminent and at the final stages, the Irish Farmers Journal understands. The land, which was bought by the GAA in the mid-2000's for a reported €2.8m, was guided for €750,000 or €7,300/ac when it re-entered the market in April.

    It is believed that it has been almost bought for around the guide of €750,000. Local reports have linked the Comer brothers with the sale. It has been suggested that businessmen are going to turn the farm into a €20m centre of excellence for soccer.

    The holding was withdrawn from auction in April and was offered by private treaty since. Handling the sale is Cathal Moran of Cathal Moran and Co Auctioneers, Athenry. He is joint agents with GVA Donal O Buachalla.