Figures obtained from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine show that the level of payments under the Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) will reduce by €15m in 15 counties, over the next three years.

The reduction in funding is due to the move to 85% convergence over the course of the CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027, and will see payments allocated to farmers in 11 counties benefitting from the change.

The overall funds allocated to BISS remain the same each year under convergence and, while many farmers with entitlements around the national average value will see very little change, some will experience significant shifts in payments.

These payment shifts occur in four equal instalments, with no change from 2026 to 2027.

The 85% convergence means that all payment entitlements will have a value of at least 85% of the planned average unit amount, ie 85% of €164.39 (€139.73) by 2026.

Increased payments

As shown in Table 1, the movement of funds, as Ireland shifts from 60% convergence in the last CAP (2014-2019) to 85% convergence in this CAP, continues the transfer of funds from the east of the country to the west of the country.

The greatest upward shift in funding over the next three years occurs in Co Mayo, with overall county BISS payments increasing by €3.5m.

Counties Kerry and Donegal also see payments rising by over €3.2m.

There are also significant increases in Galway and Sligo.

Reduced payments

All counties in the east of the country experience a reduction in total payments to their county, with the exception of Wicklow and Dublin. Payments in Wicklow are boosted by the large areas of hill/mountain ground which have lower entitlement values set to increase.

This comes in to play to a minor extent in Dublin, but payments are more so influenced by a low number of farmers and a much smaller funding pot being more exposed to percentage differences.

As will be explained below, payments in Dublin have been hit strongly by other measures, such as the Complementary Redistributive Income Support for Sustainability (CRISS), the Eco Scheme and capping of payments.

Internal convergence

It is also important to note that the data in Table 1 is presented on a county basis and therefore does not reflect internal convergence, which is very significant in some counties.

Previous data released by the Department of Agriculture estimates that 85% of farmers in Leitrim, 80% of farmers in Donegal and 76% of farmers in Sligo will benefit from convergence.

In contrast, around 60% of farmers in Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny and Laois will see their payments reduce under convergence.

For this reason the statement that funds will move from the east of the country to the west is technically correct when viewed on a county basis, but there are significant numbers of farmers in every county who will be hit hard financially due to convergence and significant numbers who will gain.

Nonetheless, the majority of farmers in many counties will experience very little change as their entitlement values are close to national average levels.

Funding cuts

It is also important to note that the movement in funding under BISS payments is only one component of how farmers’ payments may change under the CAP Strategic Plan.

This is due to the fact that payments under the Basic Payment Scheme were first subject to cuts to fund the eco scheme, CRISS, the Coupled Income Support for Young Farmers (CIS-YF) and the National Reserve.

For this reason the €15m shift in payments across county lines does not reflect the shifts in overall CAP payments.

To explain this further, we need to recap on the funding mechanism adopted under the CAP Strategic Plan.

Eco Scheme

The value of each payment entitlement was reduced by 25% to fund the new Eco Scheme, with a further 10% deducted to fund CRISS.

Again, some farmers benefitted through the Eco Scheme as the deduction to their entitlement value in 2022 was lower than the Eco Scheme payment received in 2023 (approx. €67/ha).

Likewise, some farmers were net contributors to the Eco Scheme fund, as the 25% deduction was greater than the payment received per hectare.

The greatest limitation on recouping funding apportioned to CRISS for many farmers is the fact that payments are based on a maximum of 30ha.

This payment mechanism generally favours famers in the west who typically have smaller-sized holdings, but again there is massive variation within counties that needs to be noted when it comes to farm size.

There was also another 3% cut to fund the CIS-YF. The final cut of approximately 1.3% took place at BISS level to fund the national reserve.

Similar trends

While payments across all schemes have not been finalised as of yet, the effect of the combined funding changes brought about by CRISS, the Eco Scheme, CRISS and capping of payments follow a similar pattern as outlined in Table 1; with many counties in the east with more intensive enterprises experiencing cuts to a larger magnitude, while the same counties benefitting from 85% convergence also benefit in the main from CRISS and the Eco Scheme.