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NIAPA Chairman’s New Year Message For 2014 And Comment on SFP
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A statement from NIAPA Chairman Michael Clarke:

We are entering the new year with a new CAP budget and the usual consultation process regarding expenditure and also ANC.

NIAPA Chairman Michael Clarke.

NIAPA Chairman Michael Clarke.

The importance of direct payments to farms is shown in the annual statistical review published by DARD and while those not involved many see EU payments as a bonus one only has to consult the recent figures and compare direct payments to total income from farming to see the reliance on this funding. 

The extreme weather conditions in early 2013 have been well documented and suffice to say, the resilience of the farming community has brought them through but at a major cost which could not have been budgeted for.

The agri-food strategy board reported and the signs for the industry are promising but as noted there needs to be financial support.  As always the primary producer is at the tip of the inverted pyramid from which all else develops and flourishes.  It is gratifying to note that more recognition has been given to the primary producer.

While we applaud the fact that percentage wise more farmers have received single farm payment, the fact that some have as yet due to errors, inspections etc. is concerning and is causing cash flow problems and anxiety for many farm families.  We are particularly concerned that those chosen for remote sensing inspections still face delays.  Duplicate fields still posed a problem in 2013 with some of these particularly in relation to fields with either 870 or 850 umbers.  We would hope that there can be further resolution to problems prior to 2014 scheme application.

With regard to CAP reform we have had several public information events which were facilitated by DARD at which farmers could hear proposals and discuss while having their questions answered.  This public consultation helped inform NIAPA while we were preparing our response on Pillar 1.  This exercise has now been completed following further work as a result of the decision that there would be no Pillar 1 transferred to Pillar 2. 

As with other agricultural representatives our initial response was for no transfers but on further discussion regarding the future of ANCs and a potential capital grant scheme for farmers we would have been amenable to a negotiated transfer which would have attracted matching funding and could have been ring fenced for farmers.  We are now concerned about funding for ANC as we wish this to be in Pillar 2 and for capital grants under the new reform.

The new year brings with it opportunities for change and progress which we can look forward to and I wish everyone in the rural community health, peace and prosperity in 2014.

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Who claims SFP in 2015?

NIAPA Chairman Michael Clarke has expressed concern that not enough information has been given to farmers for them to make an informed decision on what to do in the best interests of their family income.

He said: “We are strong advocates of payments being made to active farmers post 2015 and this has led to a large number of queries to our office regarding farming activity and potential eligibility.

“There now seems to be some more clarity regarding this issue and it has been addressed at several public meetings.  It would appear that a landowner who lets out land in conacre without producing an agricultural commodity may not be regarded as active as they are not taking any financial risk e.g. they have no financial outlay with a dependence on a return from the market place for their produce whether it be crops or livestock.  This is not a definitive description of activity but is meant to concentrate the minds of landowners who presently claim single farm payment but currently let out their land in conacre.

“Now is the time for discussions between landowners and tenants with regard to who is eligible to claim SFP from 2015 on.

“At present a non-active landowner may have a single farm payment entitlement which they may not be able to claim post 2015 if they choose to remain inactive.  They may in consultation with their tenant decide that the tenant who is actively farming the land claim single farm payment on all land farmed under the new regime.  If this were the case, it might be expected that the present entitlements owned by the landowner be included in that claim in order that this contribution be returned by the tenant each year.

“Given that the proposal is that whatever the total value of entitlements held at the end of 2014 be carried over and be divided by the eligible claimed land in 2015 it would seem that the person who is to claim in 2015 would need to hold all the entitlements in 2014 to have full value going into 2015.

“The last date for transfer of entitlements for 2014 is 2 April  2014 approximately 11 weeks away so it would seem that there needs to be immediate discussions between landowners and tenants

“This and other topics will be discussed in depth at County AGMs to be held shortly but it was felt imperative that discussions begin and if necessary more information and clarification sought by farmers as there is presently a short window for action if deemed necessary.”