Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Questions (382)

Charlie McConalogue


382. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he and his EU ministerial counterparts are seeking increased funding flexibilities in order to accommodate forgotten farmers (details supplied) under the specific disadvantage category of the national reserve; if the proposed capping of BPS payments is agreed if proceeds from such capping would be permitted to fund forgotten farmers into the national reserve; and if this avenue has been confirmed with the European Commission by him. [20369/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The current Regulations governing the operation of the National Reserve include an optional provision whereby Member States may use the National Reserve to allocate new entitlements or give a top-up on the value of existing entitlements for persons who suffer from a specific disadvantage.

The National Reserve in 2017 was established using funding derived from a linear cut to the value of all farmers’ entitlements. EU Regulations pertaining to the National Reserve provide that the two categories of ‘young farmer’ and ‘new entrant to farming’ must receive priority access to the Reserve. In the context of the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government, Ireland consulted with the EU Commission regarding the possibility of including the forgotten farmer group under the specific disadvantage category of the 2017 National Reserve. The EU Commission confirmed that Member States could not use the proceeds of a linear cut to fund a specific disadvantage category of the National Reserve.

The Commission confirmed at the time that the only funding option for the specific disadvantage category was natural replenishment of the National Reserve, such as from unused entitlements or the proceeds of clawback, but only after the two priority categories of ‘young farmer’ and ‘new entrant to farming’ had been catered for.

EU Regulation 2393/2017 (Omnibus Regulation) came into effect in January 2018 and introduced a new possibility for the inclusion of ‘Specific Disadvantage’ categories such as forgotten farmers into the National Reserve. From 2018, Member States may use the proceeds of a linear cut to fund ‘Specific Disadvantage’ categories of the Reserve, but only if a linear cut is required to fund the two priority categories of ‘young farmer’ and ‘new entrant to farming’ in that particular year. As there was sufficient funding available in the National Reserve in 2018 and 2019 from natural replenishment of the fund in order to cater for the two priority categories, the issue of a linear cut did not arise.

Decisions in relation to the National Reserve, including the basis of funding the National Reserve, are made in consultation with the Direct Payments Advisory Committee which comprises members of the main farming organisations, farm advisory and education services.

The new legislative proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy 2021 - 2027 were launched on Friday 1 June 2018 by Commissioner Hogan. There will be additional discretion for Member States in configuring the measures available, within parameters laid down in the draft proposals.

Significant changes are being proposed in the draft legislation, particularly when it comes to the area of direct payments. The new proposals include a number of measures relating to distribution of payments, including an overall cap of €100,000, degressivity for payments above €60,000 and a complementary redistributive income support scheme.

I have already indicated that I am open to some level of capping. Ireland has already applied the maximum level of degressivity allowable under the current regulations for direct payments over €150,000.

Currently, the proposals state that the product of the reduction of direct payments, via capping, shall primarily be used to contribute to the financing of the proposed complementary redistributive income support for sustainability and thereafter, to other interventions, belonging to decoupled direct payments.

My Department is at present examining these proposals carefully to assess their potential impact on all applicants. We need to ensure that any such mechanisms will be simple and straightforward for Member States to administer and that they can be implemented without undue complexity for the farmer.

These are complex proposals. We are in the midst of intensive and challenging negotiations and we still have some way to go before agreement on the proposals will be reached. I will continue to work with the Commission and other Member States to shape these proposals into an effective new CAP.