It would be a “complete and utter disaster” if farmers don’t end up with any extra money in their pockets after taking part in eco schemes, an Irish MEP has warned.
Independent MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan said the idea that farmers would be unable to gain any income from complying with eco schemes was one of the biggest areas of concern developing at CAP talks.
“The idea that a farmer can’t make any money out of it, that’s something that’s going to have to be nailed down and resolved because no one would expect us to do our job for nothing, or any other job,” Flanagan said at a meeting of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee on Monday.
Budget yet to be finalised
The budget for eco schemes is yet to be finalised. However, it is expected to be in the region of 25% of each member state's direct payment budget.
In Ireland, this would see almost €300m of income supports for farmers ringfenced for climate, environment and animal welfare measures.
The European Commission believes providing farmers with an incentivising payment through these schemes could breach international rules on agricultural subsidies.
“The fact that this money is actually coming out of a payment that people would already be used to getting, it means it’s all the more important,” Flanagan emphasised.
“We need more carrot and less stick when it comes to encouraging people to go down a more sustainable route and more environmentally friendly route and to get involved with carbon sequestration.”
The Midlands-Northwest MEP also raised concerns around the definition of an eligible hectare.
“We have fire on the hills here in Ireland, and we have a situation where hedges and hedgerows are being pulled out in anticipation of ‘well, if they’re not, I won’t get my grant’.
“We need to make it mandatory that people can leave these features there and still claim it as an eligible hectare because otherwise anything we do subsequently is two steps forward and five steps back,” he said.