The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has welcomed a commitment given by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue that he will direct 25% of CAP Pillar I payments towards eco schemes under the CAP Strategic Plan.

INHFA President Vincent Roddy said the commitment was “given at a meeting held by the association in Donegal on Friday night which was attended by Minister McConalogue”.

Roddy described how Minister McConalogue outlined his rationale on the new CAP plan which he said included “85% convergence, a 10% front-loading of payments and an eco scheme payment involving 25% of the State’s Pillar I payment”.

On the Minister’s eco scheme commitment, Roddy outlined the need for a “uniform payment with rates that reflect the demands made of farmers”.

The INHFA president said the 25% eco scheme budget will pay a rate of €63/ha and insisted that to pay anything less would “undermine the work and contribution made from farmers as they deliver on these measures to enhance the environment.”

Mixed messages

Reflecting on this commitment from the Minister, Roddy stressed the “importance of avoiding mixed messages as we move to finalise Ireland's CAP plan”.

He claimed that over the last week, the INHFA has “heard suggestions that the eco scheme budget could be reduced to help protect higher payment rates.

“[This] is why the Minister's clarification on this is vital,” he added.

Roddy highlighted the short timescale in finalising the CAP Strategic Plan.

“The deadline to have this in Brussels is the end of this year, which is why we need to focus on finalising outstanding issues which are primarily in Pillar II.”

Additional measures

Roddy said: “The Minister also confirmed how he wants all farmers to be able to access the eco scheme, which is why he has instructed the Department to look at additional measures for farmers to choose from.”

He described such additional measures as “vital in ensuring all farmers can access the scheme”.