Speaking following a meeting with senior officials of the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine, Mr. Pat McCormack, Deputy President of ICMSA, said that while ICMSA welcomes the scheme, we have a number of concerns in relation to a number of aspects of the scheme and believes that the Minister should amend the scheme to ensure the funds are properly utilised.
The first point to make on this scheme is that along with the Young Farmers Scheme, every farmer in the country is going to suffer a 4% cut in their payment in 2015 to fund these schemes on top of all the additional cuts imposed already and also the cuts from convergence which will impact on the large proportion of the farming population between now and 2020. We cannot forget that all farmers are suffering this cut and that the funds should be used fairly and wisely.
In particular, Mr. McCormack said, that there were two aspects of particular concern, the fact that these payments can be drawn down on conacre and could effectively be sold the next year and secondly, that this payment will be made on the first 90Ha (223 acres) declared which is almost three times the national average farm size and is 40 ha higher than the limit set for young farmers and will provide the farmer with a payment that is double the national average. Mr. McCormack said, that we need to recognise that many small and medium sized farmers are suffering cuts to fund this scheme and ICMSA believes that a more appropriate limit would be 50ha, the same as set for the Young Farmers Scheme and which is still at a high level.
In relation to conacre, it is clear Government policy to encourage long term leasing of land and ICMSA believes that at a minimum, the payment should be linked to leased land only and we cannot have the situation that people use this payment which is provided free of charge to drive up the price of conacre for other farmers.
The scheme, Mr. McCormack concluded, has clear merits but ICMSA believes that these issues need to be addressed and finally, any monies not utilised under the scheme should be given back to the farmers who suffered the cut in order to reduce the substantial cuts facing many farmers.
ENDS. 05 December 2014
Pat McCormack is at (087) 7608958.