UFU President discusses CAP implementation with Commissioner

Wednesday, 1 April, 2015

The Ulster Farmers’ Union President Ian Marshall has met with EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan during his visit to Northern Ireland to attend the Union’s Annual Dinner and raised a number of crucial issues with him, specifically in relation to CAP implementation.

Ian Marshall said: “As many farmers will be aware, the CAP implementation process in Northern Ireland has far from been plain sailing. The Union has been very vocal for some time about its concerns and we took our meeting with Commissioner Hogan as an opportunity to raise these directly at the very highest level.

“The debacle around greening continues to be a significant issue for the Union. We highlighted our concerns about the lack of clarity and detail surrounding greening requirements, and that the application process proposed by DARD, for those subject to additional greening requirements, is overly complicated and confusing. Also, as the 15th May direct support application deadline approaches the impact the new system is having on genuinely active farmers, particularly in terms of land availability, is becoming more real especially as the active farmer definition set by DARD gives scope for landowners to hold back land as they try to prove their involvement in farming activity in 2015.  Another concerning issue raised is the potential abuse of the Regional Reserve as there are indications that some farmers are ‘splitting’ their businesses so that their son or daughter can take advantage of the Regional Reserve, entering into the system as a new entrant and immediately drawing down the €329/hectare. The Commissioner acknowledged our concerns and was sympathetic to our position on the greening, active farmer and Regional Reserve issues.

“With the reformed CAP and the introduction of very complex rules and regulations, we find ourselves in a unique set of circumstances. As we have already seen, the implementation of the new CAP is a slow process but we must ensure that there will be no delays further down the line when it comes to inspections and issuing payments. In my conversation with the Commissioner, he was strongly of the opinion that government administrations should be acutely aware of this and should be focusing resources on ensuring delays, if any, are minimal and payments are made to farmers as soon as possible.

“Realistically, the reformed CAP was finalised long before Commissioner Hogan took up his new post so there is only so much he will be able to do at this time to improve on the system he inherited. However, he has said that he is intent on simplifying the CAP as much as he can, and this is something the Union fully supports.”