Minister must explain rationale for stalling Convergence – Matt Carthy TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has said Minister McConalogue must explain his decision not to proceed with the convergence of CAP farm payments during the transitionary period.
Deputy Carthy was speaking further to a parliamentary question in which the Minister confirmed that his intention is to ‘rest’ convergence once more this year.
Teachta Carthy said:
“It is widely recognised that there is an inherent unfairness in the distribution of CAP Farm payments as a small minority of farm enterprises draw down exorbitant payments while most family farmers struggle with relatively meagre supports. This is due to an archaic ‘entitlement’ regime that bases farm payments on historic reference years.
“This unfairness needs to be addressed. Sinn Féin advocate for a front-loaded payment per hectare with a maximum Pillar 1 payment limit of €60,000 per annum.
“Successive Irish governments have compounded the inequalities in the distribution of CAP payments and it appears that Minister McConalogue intends to continue to that vein.
“He has confirmed to me that he does not intend to continue the convergence of payments during the transition period. He needs to explain why he has decided to do this and what, if anything, he plans to do to ensure a fairer distribution of payments.
“While in opposition the Minister was firmly committed to convergence, this time last year chastising the then Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed TD for not continuing the practice through the transition period.
“His position is particularly bewildering considering farmers in his home county of Donegal will benefit to the tune of €12million in the event of a full flattening.
“The only ‘stability’ or ‘certainty’ this will provide to many farmers is that they will continue to be treated in an unfair manner for at least one year more.
“The approach that the Minister will pursue is becoming evident. It seems that he will delay and frustrate any and every opportunity to re-distribute farm payments just as his predecessors have done. By doing so, he will be doing a huge disservice to the majority of farming families and the rural economies that depend on them.
“The evidence points to an EU move towards enforcing convergence measures. Rather than wait to be forced, the Minister should be proactively working to correct the historical imbalances in Irish farm supports.”
Parliamentary Question by Deputy Matt Carthy
Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the convergence that will take place for CAP payments in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1084/21]
Written answer by Minister Charlie McConalogue
Convergence is a feature of the current CAP and the new CAP proposals intend to continue with this policy. Ireland has supported this element of these proposals. Convergence aims to redistribute and flatten the value of CAP payment entitlements and like all elements of the CAP, there are differing views regarding its implementation.
Under the current CAP, some €93million was redistributed from farmers with payment entitlements values above the national average to raise the value of payment entitlement held by farmers that were below the national average. This was implemented in a planned, phased manner over the five years of the Basic Payment Scheme and the steps of the convergence were notified to each farmer. This period of planned convergence ended in 2019 following its successful implementation.
The regulations regarding the transition period enable member states to continue convergence during the transition period, if they so wish. In order to provide for stability, some certainty for farmers and consultation on CAP measures, Ireland chose to rest convergence during the years 2020 and 2021.
I am reflecting on the approach that should be adopted and I will continue engagement with the relevant stakeholder organisations. I am mindful that any decision on convergence during the transition period is interlinked with plans for convergence in the new CAP. The regulations for the new CAP period have not yet been finalised.