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03/14/2013 12:00:00 AM


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Ferris, Martin

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Common Agricultural Policy Reform: Statements

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Common Agricultural Policy Reform: Statements

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Common Agricultural Policy Reform: Statements

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Senator


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Deputy Martin Ferris

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Martin Ferris

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Snippet Contents:

I thank the Minister for attending today's debate and wish him well in the ongoing negotiations. The proposals for the reform of the farm payments scheme have excited huge debate within the farming community. It is possible that the debate has highlighted for the first time the fact that the community does not share a common view on all issues. I have attended a number of meetings on the issue and was part of a delegation of Sinn Féin members and farming representatives that travelled to Brussels last week. We discussed the proposals and the likely outcome of the negotiations with members of Commissioner Cioloş's team.
On Tuesday night I attended a large meeting of farmers from south-west Munster at the Devon Inn. It was apparent at the meeting, as it has been at othes I have attended with farmers and members of various farming organisations, that the perception in some quarters that there was widespread hostility to the proposals to redistribute funds was by no means a reflection of the position on the ground. It is apparent that many farmers are unhappy at the lack of debate on the proposals. There is a perception that the debate has not been conducted with all of the relevant facts on the table. Many farmers believe the distribution of Common Agricultural Policy moneys has been unfair and unequal.
There appears to be an insinuation in certain quarters that some smaller operators are not really entitled to payments at all. The use of a code, involving the use of terms such as "active" or "productive" farmers, on the one hand, and "unproductive" and "inactive" farmers, on the other, is rightly seen as an insult by many smaller producers who have to supplement their low incomes by seeking part-time off-farm employment or availing of the farm assist scheme. The antipathy to a fair distribution of funding extends to many small to medium-sized full-time producers. I have it on good authority from a party member that a person who addressed the picket on the Minister’s office in Cork last weekend said the Minister should remember he was the Minister for agriculture rather than the Minister for social welfare. I doubt that we will see that argument used as a headline in the Irish Farmers' Journal. It sums up the attitude of a small minority of major beneficiaries of the single farm payment to thousands of other farmers whom they see as lesser farmers.
I would like to mention a significant contradiction in this respect. Some of those objecting to allegedly unproductive farmers receiving a more equitable share of farm payments and thereby being allowed to improve their productivity have no problem in defending the large single farm payment cheques to certain big businesses. The last year for which we have individual breakdowns showing who received what under the single farm payment scheme and other Common Agricultural Policy schemes is 2008. The largest recipient of CAP funds in that year was Greencore which received €83 million in respect of the closure of the Irish sugar industry. This closure was facilitated by the then Minister, Mary Coughlan of Fianna Fáil, and the leadership of the IFA. We know now that the closure did not need to take place.
Of the top 20 recipients in 2008, 16 were agribusinesses that received over €20 million between them. Some 243 recipients are receiving more than €32 million between them, while a further 1,800 are receiving over €118 million between them. The total moneys received by these 2,250 individuals and companies are more than what is received by 50,000 farmers who receive single farm payments of less than €5,000. The average payment to the top recipients is over €73,000 per year. The average payment to the 50,000 farmers I have mentioned is just over €2,400. In other words, more money is paid to the top 2% of those who receive single farm payments than to the bottom 42%. It is beyond me how anyone can defend this or claim it promotes the best interests of Irish farming.