Following on from the Common Agricultural Policy reform package, Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has set out her proposals on changing direct payments to farmers. A consultation on the topic runs until 17 January next year.
From January 2015, the single farm payment will be replaced by three new compulsory payments: the basic payment, the greening payment and the young farmer payment. The European Commission currently allocates £275 million per year in single farm payments to Northern Ireland.
“A number of other major changes will be required, including making progress towards a flat rate payment regime by 2019,” O’Neill said. “The proposals contained in the consultation document will, therefore, have a significant impact for virtually every individual who currently receives support from the single farm payment.”
Ulster Farmers’ Union President Harry Sinclair said that after a “horrendous year” of weather, farm incomes were down 50 per cent “and support from Europe was one of the only things keeping many farmers afloat.”
DARD’s proposals are “broadly in line” with the UFU’s position. “Direct payments must be targeted at those actively farming the land,” Sinclair remarked. “The EU Commission is crystal clear about this and we are at risk of hefty penalties if we do not comply.” He added: “In real terms, 2015 isn’t far away and decisions much be reached quickly to allow farmers time to plan.”