Priority Questions

Animal Feedstuffs

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

1. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he has taken to deal with the fodder crisis; his views on whether the crisis is under control; the number of fallen animals recorded each month this year compared to the same period in 2012; the further steps he intends to take to alleviate the hardship of the current fodder shortage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21656/13]

Question No. 1 concerns the response to the fodder crisis in recent weeks that has also been an issue throughout the winter. We had a one-and-a-half-hour debate on it last night, which we will continue tonight. The Deputy opposite posed some questions last night that I will answer today and I think he might find the answers useful.

As I outlined, we are doing a number of things, including a transport subsidy scheme that has been extended for a week and that will facilitate the importation after the Friday deadline of fodder that has been purchased outside Ireland this week. We have an ongoing emergency animal welfare system whereby farmers can ring up a lo-call number and if they cannot afford to feed their animals or cannot find fodder to do so, we will help them to ensure no animal anywhere in the country starves. We spoke about the fertiliser initiative that co-operatives are facilitating by providing interest-free credit for this month to encourage farmers to get fertiliser out there. Teagasc is focusing its advisers on trying to get grass growing as quickly as possible to make up for lost ground. We also spoke about banks' and co-operatives' making credit available, the initiatives that are there, which are constructive and positive, and farm payments, particularly the agri-environment options scheme, AEOS.

I am glad to give the House an update on REPS 4 payments, which Deputy Ó Cuív raised last night. There is no delay in respect of REPS 4 payments for 2012. To date, just over 29,200 of the remaining 30,200 REPS 4 participants have been paid a total of €166 million in respect of the 2012 application period. Over the past week, over 700 REPS participants received a total of €2.2 million in respect of their REPS 4 2012 payment. A further 220 will be paid just under €1 million this week, bringing the total paid close to €170 million under the REPS 4 scheme. This represents a significant improvement on last year's figures, with further payments continuing to issue on an ongoing basis as queries are resolved. In other words, we are genuinely trying to fast-track payments as best we can this year, be they AEOS or REPS. We are well ahead of where we were last year in terms of getting payments out and will continue to put pressure on because I know the stress that many farmers have been under, particularly over the past month, and this continues in many farmyards. Getting payments out on time or early certainly helps to relieve that stress.

The same arrangements apply to Priority and Oral Questions pursuant to yesterday's order from today onwards. There will be six minutes for each question, two minutes for the Minister's initial reply, four minutes overall for supplementary questions and replies and one minute for each question and reply, respectively.

I did not get any reply on the number of fallen animals. However, I welcome what the Minister said about AEOS and REPS payments. I hope he will get all the outstanding payments out quickly. In respect of the fodder scheme, setting an arbitrary deadline of this Friday is wrong.

I ask the Minister once again if he will extend the date to 17 May. Otherwise, co-ops or other suppliers would have to buy fodder that they might not need because they cannot take the chance that they can order and deliver it next week. I ask the Minister to extend the time to 17 May.

There was a 9% decrease in the number of cattle between 1998-99 and now. How is it we are in such a mess now when we were able to handle the situation, seamlessly, in that period?

What are the Minister's plans to help farmers to conserve fodder for next year? He knows that this is already an issue. In particular, is he willing to waive Teagasc fees where these relate to advice pertaining to conserving and maximising the amount of fodder we produce this year?

The Deputy asked for information on the figures for fallen animals. The most up-to-date figures available to me show that at the beginning of May, the total for 2013 is 143,000 fallen animals, compared to 117,000 last year. In the first three months of 2009, there were just under 100,000 fallen animals compared with 106,000 this year. It is important to put those figures in context. I acknowledge there have been more fallen animals this year than previously. This is the result of a significant increase of 3.5% in the number of calves being born this year because many farmers are trying to increase their herd numbers. The main reasons are the unusual weather pattern last summer, an unusual autumn and a much longer winter than normal. As a result of the feed problems and the unusual temperatures, animals have been more prone to disease. Their levels of immunity and nutrition are not what they would normally be.

Thank you, Minister.

Are we being allowed the same time for replies as is usual? We seem to be very rushed.

As I announced yesterday, an order was agreed that it would be two minutes for the Minister, one minute for a question and one minute for a reply.

I will come back to answer the rest of the Deputy's questions.

I will be very brief with the rest of my questions. Does the Minister intend to relax the stocking rules under the disadvantaged areas scheme? As he knows, there is a seven-month period in which minimum stocking must be made. What are the Minister's plans to ensure adequate markets for cattle and sheep this year and in particular for store cattle and light mountain lambs? These would be particularly difficult to market because farmers will not be in the business of buying lambs for grazing. I have a final question in addition to the other two or three which the Minister did not answer. The Minister for Social Protection could come up with €10 million to add one week to the free fuel scheme and she does not seem to have had any difficulty in getting approval from the Government. In the interest of both animal welfare and farmer welfare, will the Minister get approval from the Government for the reintroduction of the suckler welfare scheme this year on a once-off emergency basis?

Sometimes it would seem that the Deputy opposite has never been in government. When the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, announced the extension of the scheme to which he refers, she found that money from within her own budget.

Will the Minister find it from his budget?

I have to find any extra money I spend from within my budget. There is no point in taking money from farmers in one scheme to give it under another scheme.

The Minister needs to prioritise it

We have prioritised it.

Or else he should get it from the Government.

It is nothing to do with getting approval from Government; I can manage my own budget. We are spending €1 million or so on the transport subsidy. We have said there is no ceiling to what we will spend on animal welfare when farmers need to be assisted in extreme cases. The Department has taken more than 500 calls on the emergency assistance help line. We have directly assisted 100 farmers by intervening to feed their animals. We will continue this policy for as long as necessary.

On the request to extend the fodder scheme beyond Friday, we have already extended it by one week. I am trying to avoid low volumes of hay and other forms of fodder coming into Ireland over a prolonged period and into the summer.

Why not extend it by seven days?

I ask the Deputy to listen. We are trying to incentivise the importation of large volumes of fodder over a short period. Therefore, we are sticking to the date of this Friday. This date already includes an extension. However, if a farmer has proof of purchase of fodder dated before this Friday, we will, of course, facilitate the bringing in of that feed next week and the week after, if necessary. However, I want to know how much feed is being imported, how much the public is subsidising it, so that we know what we are spending. I also wish to incentivise the purchase of as much fodder as we can buy now and to get it into the country as soon as possible. Farmers will be reassured if they know how much will be available. This is the reasoning. It is not the case that I do not want to extend, rather it makes sense to stick to a deadline of this week. We have discussed that with farming bodies and most of them agree with that decision.

It does not make any sense. I am directly involved with the farming organisations in bringing in the fodder.

Coillte Teoranta Harvesting Rights Sale

Martin Ferris

Question:

2. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he agrees that a sale of Coillte harvesting rights is now unlikely to proceed. [21654/13]

This question refers to Coillte. I am somewhat limited in what I can say, apart from what I have said many times, which is that the Government made a decision last summer to look in some detail at the viability of the sale of timber harvesting rights currently owned by Coillte. That process has included my Department, NewERA, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the board of Coillte. There have been at least three if not four, valuations of that timber. Other considerations include issues relating to the Coillte pension fund, Coillte debt and the future viability of a company when an asset as significant as harvesting rights is removed. Another consideration is the public asset for which Coillte is responsible and how that may be affected in terms of public access to lands. Also, the broader timber industry relies predominantly on Coillte as almost a monopoly supplier. A total of 80% to 85% of all timber for the sawmills industry comes from Coillte forests. This was a very complex process of considering how we might take this forward and how the State might get value from this asset at a time when money needs to be raised.

Regardless of what other Ministers have said in this House, I wish to inform the Deputy that along with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, I will bring to Government a report on the process to date and a set of recommendations on which the Government will make a decision. I hope to do this in the next fortnight.

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, stated last week that he believed any sale of Coillte harvesting rights is now unlikely. Will the Minister confirm whether this has been discussed at Cabinet level and if that is the view of the Cabinet? Alternatively, is the Minister stating that the Government may yet decide to sell off Coillte harvesting rights?

We have had a number of presentations over recent months. The joint committee also heard a presentation yesterday. The strong opinion of most informed people is that the sale of Coillte harvesting rights would be detrimental and the wrong decision.

The Minister and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform must have that conversation because the issue overlaps both Departments. Does the Minister accept that selling off the most lucrative element of the harvesting rights is all that will be wanted by those who wish to buy those rights? In that case, the State will be left with what many people describe as the less lucrative parts.

Deputy Rabbitte said that the probability of agreeing to the immediate privatisation of Coillte looks more unlikely every day.

While that may be the outcome, I do not want to predetermine the result of Cabinet discussions. I have always said that we will protect the public asset Coillte manages in any sales process. Selling timber futures or harvesting rights is very similar to selling a crop early, which many farmers do. The State is investigating whether it makes sense from a financial and a strategic perspective to raise and spend the cash in the economy now. The process has been a very useful look at Coillte, its operations and the value of its timber. It has allowed me to put together a comprehensive report and set of recommendations for Government. I do not want to predetermine the outcome of discussions or what the decision will be. The Government said it would not rush into anything without doing all the due diligence. That is what we have done. We are virtually ready to make a decision, which is necessary. Regardless of what decision is made, continuing uncertainty about forestry rights and the future of Coillte is not helpful to the company or the timber industry more broadly. The Government must therefore make a decision soon, which it will.

I hope the Government will be true to what the Minister says and make a decision promptly. I hope also that the Government takes into account Mr. Peter Bacon's report on the sale of Coillte or its harvesting rights and the loss that would represent to the State. It would be folly for the Government to sell off public ownership of Irish timber rights to some multinational or foreign speculator when those harvesting rights could be utilised to develop the industry further. I hope the McCarthy report is not the driving force behind any Government decision when the Bacon report has it right.

The Bacon report is just one of a series of reports. My Department had an evaluation carried out on a pro bono basis by Deloitte quite some time ago, while NewERA has commissioned a number of reports on the valuation of harvesting rights, as has Coillte. Different people have different views. It is my job to bring a set of recommendations to the Government based on all the work that has been done, and I am more or less in a position to do so. The issue continues to result in uncertainty in Coillte and the timber industry generally and the Government must get on and make whatever decision it will. That is what we will do in the next couple of weeks, after which we will come to the House to debate and defend it.

When does the Minister expect to have the decision?

Within the next two to three weeks.

Sugar Industry

Seamus Healy

Question:

3. Deputy Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress that has been made regarding the re-establishment of the sugar industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21777/13]

I will at the outset provide the Deputy with the background to this issue. The EU sugar regime underwent a radical reform in 2005 following major EU decisions to restructure the industry. A temporary restructuring scheme was introduced with the aim of reducing EU sugar production. Greencore, the holder of the entire Irish sugar quota, availed of this voluntary scheme, dismantled its facilities and ceased production in 2006. Ireland secured €353 million as part of the reform package, of which €220 million went to beet growers, €127 million to Greencore and €6 million to machinery contractors. Post-reform, production in the EU is now concentrated in 18 member states and the current regime runs from 1 September 2006 to 30 September 2015. There is no mechanism under the EU regulations currently in force which allows for the re-instatement of a quota for the growing of beet in Ireland for the production of sugar. Of course, sugar beet is still grown in Ireland as a fodder crop. While we do not produce as much as when there was a sugar industry, current production is not far off former levels. It is approximately two thirds of what was previously grown.

In 2011, I met with two separate groups which had conducted feasibility studies on rebuilding a sugar industry in Ireland and putting processing facilities in place once again in anticipation of the ending of the sugar quota regime in 2015. It has been quite clear in the CAP negotiations that, with one or two exceptions, the 18 member states that have sugar industries want to see the sugar quota regime extended until 2020. Along with a number of Ministers from member states that would like to get back into the sugar industry and see the establishment of a freer market for sugar in the EU, I have advocated that we should support the Commission's position, which is to maintain 2015 as the date to end sugar quotas, as agreed. The compromise has been to agree a Council position on 2017 as the end date for the sugar quota regime. The compromise has been welcomed strongly by those who want to re-establish a sugar industry in Ireland. They see it as a timeframe they can work with. We need now to agree with the Commission and European Parliament a final date on which to end the sugar regime as part of the trilogue process to conclude a CAP agreement.

I thank the Minister for his reply. The closure of the sugar beet industry in 2006 was completely unnecessary and wrong, as found by the European Court of Auditors in 2010. I welcome the Minister's indication on the scrapping of sugar quotas. While we had hoped that would happen in 2015, it would be welcome if we could be absolutely sure it would happen in 2017. The re-establishment of the industry in Ireland is important not just for the industry but from an employment perspective as it would mean the creation of upwards of 400 direct jobs. Further employment would be created in the construction of facilities as well as on farms and among agricultural contractors. In Tipperary, we hope that the site just outside Thurles at Lisheen Mine will be used for a processing facility. The county has been hit badly by unemployment over the years. Does the Minister have any information on the site?

I am aware of the ongoing work by Beet Ireland and the negotiations that have been taking place with the owners of the Lisheen Mine site. It is a very exciting project which I would love to see happen. My role as a Minister is to facilitate an end to sugar quotas as soon as possible or, if there is an extension of quotas beyond 2017, to ensure Ireland is allocated a quota to permit the production of sugar to recommence. It is up to commercial operators and organisations such as Beet Ireland to put business plans together to make this work commercially. We must not forget that we will be competing with parts of Europe which already have the infrastructure in place to produce sugar very competitively. We will have to spend approximately €300 million to put a plant together. That is expensive and will involve loans that must be repaid.

As long as the international price of sugar remains strong - above €500 per tonne - the feasibility studies from Beet Ireland and others suggest that proposals for sugar production in Ireland are credible. If we can make this project happen, it would be fantastic from a farming, industry, employment and stimulus perspective in Tipperary. We must ensure the numbers add up. The last thing we want is to invest heavily only to find that we are not competitive with other parts of Europe. I consider the project to be doable and will do everything I can to ensure we end sugar quotas in the European Union as soon as possible to allow it to get off the ground if the commercial case can be made, which I believe it can.

I welcome the Minister's support for the project. I understand building a plant takes two and a half years. There was a suggestion sowing sugar beet could commence in the 2016 season. Can the Minister give us an indication on the finalisation of the quota system and its knock-on effects on these two items?

These are fair questions, but it is important we do not run before we can walk. The first thing we must do is ensure Ireland either has a quota or can produce sugar in the absence of EU quotas. At present we can do neither. After I came back from the Council of Ministers having sought agreement on the CAP, I said sugar production was the most difficult issue on which to get agreement for 2017. There is major pressure in respect of production in 2019 and 2020. People want to extend the sugar quota regime because many countries' industries make a lot of money from it. We will try to hold to the Council position as best we can as the Parliament seeks to push the date back to 2020. We will know by the end of June the final outcome of the negotiations. However, I encourage caution. There should be no decisions made on planting sugar beet crops or other investments until we know when Ireland will have the capacity to produce sugar again and when the sugar regime is likely to end.

Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

4. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress made to date in the discussions on the Common Agricultural Policy between the EU Commission, the EU Parliament and the Council of Ministers; the mains issues agreed to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21657/13]

The negotiations on CAP reform have moved to discussions between the EU institutions and an intensive schedule of trilogue discussions with the European Parliament and European Commission commenced on 11 April. Up to today, 11 trilogues have taken place - three each on direct payments and rural development, four on the single CMO and one on the horizontal and financial management proposal. As holder of the Presidency, Ireland is representing the European Council of Ministers in the negotiations.

On the direct payments dossier, we have had a run though of proposals for the basic payment scheme, including the various options for internal convergence, the national reserve and the redistributive payment. We have also discussed the scope and definitions, the provisions on active farmers, coupled support and the schemes for young and small farmers. On Monday we started looking at the provisions on capping and transfers between pillars.

As to the single CMO, we have looked at the introductory provisions, trade issues and school schemes. We have also commenced an examination of specific sectoral rules, starting with olive oil, hops, apiculture, fruit and vegetables and wine, as well as PGI provisions. Yesterday there was a first discussion on market intervention, exceptional measures and the crisis reserve.

Moving to rural development, we have had a first discussion on the objectives and priorities and have started a more detailed discussion on individual measures. We have examined general and financial management provisions in the horizontal regulations.

In terms of where we go from here, we have planned 34 trilogues between now and the end of June, when we hope to finalise a political agreement between the three institutions on CAP reform. The Deputy will be familiar with most of the key political issues. Significant political decisions are not made in the trilogues. We are working through and setting aside key issues on which the Council of Ministers must make a decision in terms of updating my mandate for negotiation. The Parliament must make its own decision, as must the Commission. That is how it works and this is a tedious and incredibly complex political process. It involves 27 countries, soon to be 28, and three institutions, all of which are contributing for the first time to a trilogues process to try to have a complex CAP reform package agreed. We are making good progress and on schedule to have a final agreement before the end of June.

Will the Minister confirm a new CAP will not be in place until 2015? If he can confirm this, how many farmers will be left in the agri-environment options scheme and the REPS in 2014? The third related question concerns whether, allowing for the fact that many people depended on the new REP or agri-environment options scheme coming into operation in 2014, the Minister will introduce new one-year agri-environment options scheme in 2014 for those who had a legitimate expectation that such a scheme would be in place in 2014 and were depending on it for a basic income. How many countries are opposed to the concept of a minimum payment under the single farm payment scheme?

The schedule for implementation is that we will try to reach political agreement by June on what the new CAP reform package will look like for the next seven years. The Commission will then spend the second half of the year turning it into regulations to make it real and implementable. Countries will put together plans for their own CAP reform package given the toolbox and the flexibility they will have from the political agreement such as, for example, internal convergence and greening measures-----

Will the Minister answer the question?

I am answering it.

The Minister can answer "Yes" or "No".

Countries will be given 12 months to put new systems in place in order that the new CAP can begin in 2015. The schedule has been in place for the past eight months. If the Deputy had been following what had been happening, he would know that and would not have to ask.

There is no surprise for farmers. We knew for about eight months that the new CAP would not be up and running until 1 January 2015. The Commission has accepted this. I do not want to be accused of not answering the question. In the past two weeks the Commission has brought forward a proposal on how things will work in 2014, essentially under the old CAP policy but on the basis of a new budget. It will be a bridging year before 2015.

Will the Minister confirm that there will be a bridging agri-environmental scheme in 2014 for those who were involved in environmental schemes but are not involved in one now? Can the Minister tell me how many countries were opposed to the concept of a minimum payment under the single farm payment scheme? How many countries support the Minister's approach to the concept of greening on an individual basis as opposed to flat application? All farmers have an equal responsibility in that regard. If the proposal is accepted by the Commission as an option, will the Minister have to provide justification for it on environmental grounds before it approves it?

I will ask the questions.

I need to understand them. Which greening option is the Deputy talking about?

The question is simple. The Minister has an individual option whereby he will pay farmers operating on very good land much higher greening payments than those operating on marginal land. He wants the greening payment to match the existing single farm payment. Would it not be hard to support lower greening payments per hectare on Natura 2000, SPA and SAC sites, compared to the payment made on the best quality non-designated land and land with lower ecological value? Is it difficult to justify the approach of making the lowest greening payment on the land with the highest ecological value in the country?

Does the Deputy expect me to answer all of those questions in one minute? If so, I will try.

Twenty questions in one.

With regard to what the position will be in 2014, we must look at what we can afford to do with the available budget. I will make those decisions around budget time. There will be a new rural development scheme post-2015 that will involve environmental schemes and others. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív always sees this in simple terms of just giving out money and being as popular as he can in doing so.

That is how farmers see it.

No, that is how the Deputy sees it. We must act strategically with public money and get value for money in how we spend it, whether it be on environmental or other schemes.

With regard to minimum payment, there is an agreed Council position. All 27 countries signed up to providing an option for countries that would not include a compulsory minimum payment. The Commission wants a minimum payment and the European Parliament has a view that is somewhere between the views of the Commission and the Council. We will work out a compromise eventually. Countries such as Portugal, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Austria and Luxembourg-----

With the exception of Slovenia and Slovakia, 25 countries supported our alternative option for countries. That is the position, regardless of how the Deputy tries to undermine it. He should look at some of the debates that take place in the Council so he can understand the different positions countries have taken. We have a Council position that is representative of what the countries, through their Ministers, want. We must now find a compromise with the European Parliament and the Commission on all of these issues. That is what we are trying to do.

Is the Minister saying they are all opposed to a minimum payment except two?

I am defending a position that the Council agreed, which was a compromise among Ministers.

Common Agricultural Policy Reform

Martin Ferris

Question:

5. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the consequences the current failure to conclude an agreement on the multi-annual financial framework will have on proposals to reform the farm payments system. [21655/13]

This is a very good question about the impact a failure to agree the multi-annual financial framework, MFF, might have on the proposed CAP reform. As holder of the Presidency, we are trying to finalise the European budget with the European Parliament, which must approve it, before the end of the Irish Presidency. We are also trying to conclude CAP reform and the Common Fisheries Policy, CFP, reform. Obviously these matters are intertwined because approximately 38% of the EU budget is the CAP budget. It is a very significant amount of money at approximately €370 billion over the next seven years. It will therefore be difficult to finalise a political deal on the CAP if we do not have a clear picture of the budget and how it will work.

We made a great deal of progress in the last few days, when both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste injected some urgency into the system in terms of trying to find an accommodation between the concerns of the European Parliament and the decision of the European Council on the MFF. We are hopeful that can be achieved by the middle or end of June, which will make it easier for me to secure a CAP deal by the end of June as well. However, even if we do not secure an agreed MFF, I still believe we can agree a great deal of the CAP reform. The MFF is not going to change dramatically. What is under negotiation at present is the budget for this year and how that will be accommodated in the context of a budget for the next seven years.

I am hopeful we will be able to do both. That is the plan.

The Minister suggested that the European Parliament will now negotiate on the budget. Its evident opposition to the proposed 3.5%, which is approximately €35 billion in cuts to the MFF, has clear implications for the proposals to cut the overall CAP allocation. The majority in the European Parliament has argued that the overall budget must be targeted to promote growth through stimulation. It has also opposed the cuts to the CAP. This clearly sets it at odds with the European Central Bank and with the current German domination in EU policy. It is also clear there is more support for a more radical shift on farm payments in the European Parliament than among the dominant states within the EU. Would the Minister agree that more radical parameters at EU and national levels need to be set for CAP reform in order to win the approval of the European Parliament for the MFF?

The member states that contribute to the EU budget have already made a decision on how much they are willing to spend for the next seven years. That is very unlikely to change. Extra money is required to complete the budget for 2013 and how to deal with that and where the money will come from are under negotiation at present. The European Parliament is also seeking some other flexibilities. Even though the European Parliament would like the budget to be bigger, it is very unlikely that in the negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council there will be a significant increase, or any increase, in the overall budget because of how difficult it was to get prime ministers to agree on the amount of money their countries were willing to contribute to that budget over the next seven years. It is in the flexibilities the European Parliament has been seeking and some of the other policy-related issues it is seeking to influence that we will find a solution. I certainly hope we can do that. Everybody realises that the stakes are very high if we do not.

The European Parliament's proposal was that the minimum payment received by a farmer ought to be 65% of the EU average payments. The initial Commission proposal was designed to move in that direction as well. Will the Minister be open to the renewal of negotiations to bring about such a change, to ensure that a small minority of EU and Irish farmers do not receive a disproportionate share of farm payments?

That is exactly what the negotiations are about, how to redistribute within a country and the flexibility to be given to countries while at the same time ensuring there is significant redistribution. We do not want a figleaf with regard to the redistribution of money. There are people who got a raw deal under direct payments in the past, because of their position during the years when entitlements were formed. For whatever reason they did not have the productivity in those years to be able to build up a decent entitlement. There are also new entrants into farming and young farmers who have very low payments. There are people on very poor land who have very low payments. We must ensure those payments increase quite significantly. However, we must also factor in the reality that many farmers are very productive and are investing in further growth, expansion and innovation. They are using their single farm payment to do that and have borrowed on that basis.

There should not be such a dramatic redistribution that it would fundamentally undermine the productivity of many farmers in Ireland. We are trying to manage the redistribution. Clearly, the more one gets in a single farm payment at present, the more one will be asked to contribute to redistribution and the less one gets at present, the more one will benefit from that. Whether there is a mandatory or voluntary minimum payment is still up for discussion. There are other elements countries will be able to use such as, for example, a payment for the first 30 or 32 hectares. If countries wish to adopt that approach, the three institutions do not have an issue with that. We will know the options we have by the end of June, and this country will have to use the options that best suit the Irish agricultural system. We will have a debate once we know what tools are available to us.