Pre-Council EU Developments: Discussion with Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Thursday, 21 February 2013

I thank the witnesses for attending. Can they develop some points on questions I asked previously on greening? Has anything been done in respect of the situation in which tillage farmers find themselves at a disadvantage with the screening proposal and the ploughing of permanent pasture? I remind the witnesses of the important example I gave previously in which, if a farm comes up next to a tillage farm and is put into permanent pasture for five years, it is taken out of the system. We will lose tillage land at a terrible rate if we do not provide some mechanism for permanent pasture to be taken out and rotated. We must be really careful or we will not have a tillage industry.

In the context of greening and tillage, is it possible to introduce protein crops? There is a huge deficit of protein in Europe. When I spoke to the Secretary General for agriculture in the EU, he said that was one of his concerns. I was surprised that he raised the matter. We are well capable of growing protein here. Perhaps we do not have the expertise we had, but it might work if it were introduced under the blanket of greening.

I do not like the transfer of 15% from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2. How will that work out? I do not have any urge to drop 15% of my payments into Pillar 2. In the CAP legal framework proposals that came out a few months ago, there was mention of a diversification grant for alternative enterprises. Have they been developed any further and are they embedded into Pillar 1 and Pillar 2, or are they separate? Emergency funding was also mentioned. Is that going to be taken out of Pillar 1, or will there be a separate fund for emergency reliefs?

I recognise that we all come from different sectors, but I do not consider that levying out payments and providing them all over the country is going to make better farmers of people who get payments. Quite frankly, I bought my entitlements. Many people were delighted to sell their cattle. They got the 22-month and slaughter premiums paid up front and it worked for them. Those of us who had to take the risks are still farming actively. While I can understand the urge to level out the payments, doing so will affect productive agriculture. We must be aware of the production potential of land. There is no point in sending money up to the top of a mountain where no production is going to take place.