Applications to the National Reserve have doubled this year, with close to 1,600 being received for 2022 compared to an average of 850 for the period 2018 to 2021.

A linear reduction of approximately 0.6% to all payment entitlements in 2022 will be imposed by the Department of Agriculture, in order to meet the increased National Reserve demand.

The Department’s move has sparked differences in opinion between the IFA and Macra na Feirme.

While the application of the 0.6% reduction on entitlements is supported by Macra, the IFA’s deputy president Brian Rushe claimed that the move will benefit a cohort of part-time farmers with sizeable off-farm incomes.

Rushe blamed the recent surge in applications to the National Reserve on the removal of the upper off-farm income threshold of €40,000, which was a requirement prior to 2022.

“Irish farmers have made a very positive contribution to young farmers in terms of funding and allocation of additional entitlements through the National Reserve.

“However, this move [the threshold increase] allows people who don’t have farming as their primary source of income to secure entitlements at the expense of those who rely on farming for their livelihood,” Rushe said.

IFA rural development chairman Michael Biggins also took issue with the decision to impose a linear cut on all entitlements to fund the 2022 National Reserve.

“The Department of Agriculture previously outlined that unused funds from the Young Farmer Scheme could fund the National Reserve for 2022.

“The IFA reiterated that any cut is unacceptable and unused funds from the Young Farmer Scheme and other schemes must be directed to fund the Reserve,” Biggins said.

Supporting young farmers

However, Macra president John Keane defended the application of the 0.6% cut on all entitlements, stating that the National Reserve had to be funded.

“Let’s rule out all part-time farmers from receiving entitlements if that’s the rationale for opposing the 0.6% cut to entitlements,” Keane said.

“It is not difficult to see why only 5% of the active farming population is under the age of 35 when the larger actors in the sector are saying that a 0.6% cut to fund the National Reserve is too much,” he added.

Under the National Reserve in 2021, 740 farmers – of which 678 were young farmers – received an average allocation of €5,460 in entitlements.

In addition, 5,129 young farmers received an average of €2,270 payment top-up under the Young Farmers Scheme in 2021.