The convergence of farm payments towards the national average of €265/ha remains the most controversial element of CAP reform.

As of 2019, all entitlements are worth at least 60% of the national average. The current proposals on the table range between a 75% rate and 100% convergence.

At a recent meeting of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee, each farm organisation president outlined their position.

Irish Farmers Association (IFA)

IFA president Tim Cullinan said: “In the context of the potential additional flattening effect of eco schemes, it is vital that the Minister for Agriculture ensures that the European Council position of maximum 75% convergence is robustly defended.”

Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA)

ICMSA president Pat McCormack said: “[The] ICMSA believes that a convergence system should be adopted that protects farmers whose total Pillar I envelope is below a defined level, but payment per hectare is above the national average.

“In this regard, the [European] Council position of 75% convergence should be adopted with flexibility to exempt farmers below a certain overall payment level.”

Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA)

INHFA president Colm O’Donnell said: “100% convergence would deliver a flat-rate payment per hectare, which is not just the fairest, but the only credible way forward.

“With all farmers now expected to comply with the same conditions as outlined under the Good Agricultural & Environmental Conditions (GAEC), it’s not unreasonable that all farmers will get the same payment rate per hectare.”

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA)

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher said: “On convergence, the harsh reality is that the EU has shirked their responsibilities to make the CAP fit for purpose. The cake has not gotten bigger, it is actually smaller, so we cannot give more farmers the same worthwhile slice.

“It looks like the final outcome will be that the lowest payment will have to reach 85% of the average by 2026, which is a noble aspiration, except for the fact that it takes from already strapped suckler, sheep and beef farmers.”

Macra na Feirme

Macra president John Keane said: “Macra na Feirme are in favour of 75% convergence by 2026 and would urge Minister McConalogue to resist the calls for higher levels of convergence.”