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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    Three-man race for ICSA president
    The Irish Cattle and Sheep Association (ICSA) will elect a new president in June.

    Three candidates are in the running to become the next president of the ICSA following the close of nominations on Friday evening.

    In alphabetical order, these candidates are as follows:

  • Hugh Farrell, Cavan.
  • Dermot Kelleher, Cork west.
  • Edmond Phelan, Waterford.
  • The election will take place in Portlaoise on the evening of Thursday 27 June.

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    Watch: vegetable growers turn on the irrigation systems
    O’Shea Farms and Hughes Farming have both turned on the irrigation pumps this week.

    In order to combat dry conditions, O’Shea Farms and Hughes Farming were irrigating crops this week.

    Julian Hughes says he has never irrigated as early as May before and that he has two reels out at the moment, but will be putting another two out next week if there is no rain in the meantime.

    “We have a 30mm soil moisture deficit,” he said.

    “The fear of a repeat of 2018 is palpable in the yard at home, there’s dust everywhere.”

    In a normal year, he said that he would irrigate the crops in July and August.

    But so far he has put 30mm on parsnips and followed up five days later with another 30mm.

    “You could ask are we selecting higher-yielding varieties that need more inputs. But I’m using the same variety with the last 20 years.

    "It’s just very dry. We need 50mm over three days to get things balanced up.”

    Agronomist with O’Shea farms Tom Murray said that it would be normal for them to be irrigating at this time of year. They grow carrots in Piltown and Carrick-on-Suir.

    “We’re putting on 12mm to 15mm, not any more than that. We don’t want to wash away any pre-emergence spray,” Tom said.

    “There has been years before when we needed to irrigate to encourage germination. But the soil is starting to dry out and we want to be ahead of it.”

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    Investigation launched into compromised DkIT agriculture exam
    An examination paper sat by final-year agriculture science students in DkIT was compromised and students have to resit it.

    Final-year agriculture students in Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) must resit an examination after a paper was compromised.

    In a statement, head of school of health and science at DkIT Dr Edel Healy said that on 20 May the college became aware that an examination paper sat by final-year students on one programme on 14 May was compromised.

    As a result, all students in the class must now resit the examination on Friday 24 May or at a later date to be decided in August.

    Investigation

    “DkIT has launched an active investigation into the circumstances surrounding this issue,” Dr Healy said.

    “All students affected by this situation have now been contacted and reassured that any repeat exams if required after the August sitting will be scheduled prior to the completion of the autumn exam board process.

    "This will ensure that all successful students may be conferred in November as planned.”

    Stress

    The college recognised the additional stress and inconvenience to students and extended study hours have been provided at the library.

    “The protection of academic integrity and assessment is of the utmost importance at DkIT and the institute follows best practice to ensure security of its examinations process.

    "As part of the current investigation, an extensive review of our examination processes and procedures will be carried out,” said Dr Healy.

    “I would like the thank our students for their continued understanding and co-operation during this process.”