Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has accused the European Commission of deception and of deliberately misleading farmers with regard to the proposed €60,000 upper cap limit on farm payments. Carthy, who has consistently been arguing for a mandatory upper payment limit in order to secure increased CAP payments to the majority of farmers, has said that Phil Hogan’s claims that the proposed reform of CAP will benefit small farmers now appear entirely baseless.
Speaking from Brussels, Matt Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, said:
“Commissioner Phil Hogan’s claim that the future Common Agricultural Policy will be concentrated and targeted towards small farms appears to be, not only without foundation, but deliberately misleading towards those seeking redress of the inequities with CAP.
“The Commission have repeatedly billed the proposed reform as one which will see an end to the exorbinant sums that some farm enterprises receive and, in turn, lead to greater payments for smaller farmers. Commissioner Hogan has claimed that a €60,000 payment cap will lead to redistribution to smaller farmers as well as leave room for more funds for other schemes.
“It appears now that this is a deception. Proposed loopholes will allow for discounts for the value of salaries paid from the direct payments received before cap, but also the inputted value of all family engaged labour mean that the net direct payments figure to which capping applies will be zero.
“In other words the commission is proposing to allow for large farmers to deduct labour costs, including unpaid labour, from the amount of direct payments before capping is implemented. In effect this would effectively result in no upper cap limit being applied.
“In fact the only holdings where a cap of €60,000 may realistically be applied are the very largest ones in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Romania, where labour costs are much lower.
“Repeated CAP reforms have failed to deal with the issue of overpayments. In fact the last attempt in the 2013 reform which was supposed to make reductions on payments above €150,000, got nowhere close to that. 15 Member States opted to apply a minimum reduction of 5% above €150,000 and others such as Scotland only made reductions passed €600,000.
“In Ireland, the average direct payment is a mere €17,932. Meanwhile 261 farm enterprises are receiving payments in excess of €100,000.
“Agricultural subsidies have been skewed in favour of larger farmers for years now and these latest loopholes mean that this time will be no different.
“Sinn Féin agrees with policies that contribute to increasing rural employment, however exempting larger farms from the cap through these loopholes mean that in practice there will be no change for farmers who are genuinely struggling to cope with lower prices and earnings. It will force out smaller farmers with no real incentives for larger farmers to employ new people”.