October 14, 2003
Northern Ireland Beef Farmers Demand Fair Subsidy Payments
In Northern Ireland, beef farmers let out warning sign that the province will not enjoy 'both buttercups and beef' after 2005 unless the Single Farm Payment is based on historic receipts.
The National Beef Association commented the Department of Agriculture is mistaken if it thinks flat rate payments will secure production and sustain environmental standards.
"Too many beef farmers will lose out if the flat rate route is taken," said the NBA's Northern Ireland chairman, John Carson.
"Currently beef farmers receive just under 85% of annual coupled subsidy payments compared with a combined total of just over 15% for sheep and cereals.
"Even if the new quota based payments that will be offered to dairy farmers if the milk sector is decoupled by 2005 are taken into account it is obvious that huge sums of beef farmers' money would be levelled out over other holdings," he said.
Which means, the majority of beef farmers would lose out.
According to NBA, this will not only trigger an economically damaging decline in beef production but could also result in unwelcome land abandonment and dereliction.
"DARD itself has confirmed that 54% of beef farmers will lose more than 3,500 sterling pound in annual subsidy payments if the flat rate route is taken," said Mr Carson.
"The inevitable result of this will be neither beef nor buttercups for Northern Ireland in the post-CAP reform era."
Mr Carson said DARD appeared to favour a flat rate, or a stepped hybrid system which would eventually result in transfer to flat rate.
This was because it was worried about public reaction to wide variations in entitlement payment, he claimed.
But DARD should accept that properly monitored cross-compliance rules should be all that is necessary to reassure taxpayers that subsidy is buying public goods.