The impact of convergence, eco schemes and front-loaded payments will effectively result in over 90% convergence of payments in the next CAP, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue told an INHFA meeting last week.

Speaking to 60 farmers in Ballybofey, Co Donegal, he said he felt it was important in this CAP that farmers on payments of around €8,000 or €9,000 would benefit from the front-loaded payment.

“Obviously, the larger your farm is, the more you contribute to that process.

“So while 75% [of farmers] are the same or better off, those farms that are larger are net contributors and that makes a significant impact to them. But the rationale behind it is to try and provide further support to smaller- and medium-sized farmers and it certainly does that.

“Based on the current CAP Pillar I payment, you effectively have a 90% convergence rate in the next CAP for Pillar I.

“It’s full flattening on the first 35% [eco schemes at 25% and front-loading at 10%] and the remainder is converged to 85% and when you take that together it’s an effective rate of 90%,” he said.

Lower payments

The minister said he did not go to 100% convergence this time as it “has significant impacts on those on high entitlements, many are losing a lot. But, importantly, those who have lower payments are significantly gaining”.

The minister also noted that it is a “painful process” for farmers who are seeing their payments reduced as a result of convergence.

Henry O’Donnell of the INHFA said that the association was the only farm organisation seeking a front-loaded payment and 100% convergence.

“The reality is, one of the arguments that was put up against us by other farm organisations against convergence, was that this would affect smaller farmers with high-entitlement values and that wasn’t fair.

“The solution to that is actually the front-loaded payment.

“It’s quite incredible that when this was put on the table, the organisations that were supposedly trying to support those small farmers on high per-hectare payments just threw them under the bus at the first opportunity. So it’s amazing the way things work out.”