Simplifying the CAP: how simple is it?
At a CAP discussion event organised by Sinn Fein's Matt Carthy, the process of simplifying the policy was questioned by a number of farm organisations.

Claims that the next CAP will see a simplification of the policy were questioned by a number of farm organisations at a farming discussion event in Monaghan.

The event was organised by Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy. Representatives from several farm organisations had the opportunity to lay out their priorities for the next CAP.

This followed a presentation from Chiara Dellapasqua from the EU Commission for Agriculture. She explained that the priority for the next CAP was to simplify and modernise the policy.

Higher hoops

Colm O’Donnell, president of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA), said the Commission’s proposals would not deliver a simpler or more sustainably policy.

He said: “In my opinion, there’s higher loops and higher fences. There will be higher conditionality in order to get you payments, particularly in pillar one. You wouldn’t want to walk into the next CAP reform with your eyes closed.”

O'Donnell expressed serious concerns over the inclusion of new eco schemes in pillar one which were not mandatory for all farmers.

He said if the Commission was serious about climate change then these schemes should be mandatory or it would fall to a small number of farmers to carry the can.

Lorcan McCabe, deputy president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), said he could not see simplification happening and to him it seemed to be going in the opposite direction.

ANC

Both McCabe and O'Donnell agreed the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme was an example of a scheme that was simple.

They said farmers did not have over-burdening requirements to qualify for the scheme and called for it to be adequately funded.

Joe Brady, rural development chair for the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), also expressed concerns over the simplification process, saying: “I know they say it’ll be simple but I’m not sure it’ll be that simple.”

He said significant simplification for farmers meant a reduction of bureaucratic burdens, particularly when it came to the inspection regime.

He said as Brussels handed more control back to Dublin to administer the CAP, it should lead to a fairer inspection regime.

Generational renewal

James Healy, president of Macra na Feirme, said that higher level of control should be used to prioritise young farmers.

All speakers on the night spoke of the importance of supporting young farmers, and James said if they were serious then as much as 5% of all pillar one funding should be set aside for young farmers.

A retirement scheme for older farmers was raised by both the speakers and members of the audience. Colm, Lorcan and Joe said they had all benefited from the last retirement scheme. Along with James, they agreed providing a stable income that allowed older farmers to step away was an important part of generational renewal.

Compromise

Chiara concluded by emphasising the Commission’s proposals needed to work across 27 EU countries and that in most cases they had been hard-fought compromises. She said the greater independence being given to member states provides an opportunity to design a CAP policy that works for farmers.

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Varadkar pledges income tax cuts and more forestry on farms
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has addressed tax equality and the role of agriculture in climate change in a speech as Fine Gael party leader.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has promised to achieve tax equality between self-employed and PAYE workers and singled out on-farm forestry and the modernisation of Bord na Móna as priorities to tackle climate change.

Speaking at the Fine Gael Árd Fheis in Dublin this Saturday, Taoiseach Varadkar mentioned existing tax and pension measures in favour of farmers and other self-employed workers, but added: "We're not done yet."

Drawing from the experience of Fine Gael members surrounding him on stage, he first addressed the "hopes and fears for the future" of Kevin, a farmer from Co Leitrim.

Full equality

"Now we want there to be full equality for the self-employed and businesspeople when it comes to income tax," he said. "There’s no reason why someone who is self-employed should pay more income tax than those of use who are PAYE."

The 2016 programme for government committed to increasing the earned income tax credit to €1,650 for the self-employed by 2018, but the recent Budget 2019 fell short of that, at €1,350.

As he seeks to extend the confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil, An Taoiseach pledged to close the gap if Fine Gael stayed in government.

He also promised to increase the point at which people pay the top rate of tax to €50,000 for a single person, up from €35,300 in Budget 2019, in the interest of "fairness" for those earning average incomes.

Transform some of our farms from carbon emitters into carbon sinks that produce timber

Taoiseach Varadkar said Ireland had to move from "laggard to leader" on climate change. "We must and we will meet our 2030 targets for carbon emissions and renewable energy and we’ll do this by transforming Bord na Móna into a green semi-state generating renewable energy and managing waste rather than generating carbon," he said.

Another key environmental measure will entail "investing in forestry to transform some of our farms from carbon emitters into carbon sinks that produce timber products which in turn help us to reduce plastics," he added.

Brexit

On Brexit, he supported the draft withdrawal agreement negotiated between the EU and the UK. "Let’s seal the deal and let’s get on to the next phase, which is managing the transition period and negotiating a new deep and close relationship with the UK," he said.

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Five reasons you need to be at Dairy Day
The Irish Farmers Journal's Dairy Day takes place in the Punchestown Event Centre from 9am on Tuesday 20 November.

1. Skills Hub

The Skills Hub will be running all day. It aims to showcase best practise and the efficiencies required to run a dairy farm in Ireland today.

2. Calf Shed Talks

There is no animal more important than the young dairy calf on a farm. Journal vet Tommy Heffernan has a packed schedule of practical demonstrations at the Calf Shed Talks.

3. Beyond The Parlour sessions

The Irish dairy industry is vibrant, growing and looking for new opportunities. Where is the future for added value in the dairy chain? What milk prices can farmers expect in five and 10 years time?

4. Goodie bag

Get your special show bag with the new Irish Dairy Farmer magazine in it.

5. KT-approved

And, best of all it is a Knowledge Transfer-approved event.

Farmers protest fresh forestry expansion in Co Leitrim
Protesters call for environmental study before any more conifers are planted in the county.

Members of the IFA and the Save Leitrim campaign group staged a joint protest at the site of a new forestry plantation in Carrigallen, Co Leitrim, on Saturday.

IFA Leitrim chair James Gallagher told the Irish Farmers Journal that a farm is being planted with conifers at the site, and the IFA will display the same opposition to any new such projects in Co Leitrim until an independent study of the impact of forestry expansion in the county is completed.

"A resolution from Leitrim went to the IFA national council in September asking that there would be no new plantations without a full environmental survey," Gallagher said.

Major concern

After the national council endorsed the resolution at the time, IFA president Joe Healy said that the level of afforestation in recent years, particularly by non-farmers and outside investors, was of major concern to local farmers and rural communities.

"Leitrim has 18.9% of forest cover at the moment, the highest in the country," Gallagher said. When hilltops and other areas unsuitable for planting are taken out, he estimated that half the agricultural land in the county is now planted.

"Leitrim will not be the carbon sink for the whole country," he said.

He added that the IFA was still lobbying for the independent study to be carried out, but this had not started yet.

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