Michael Bergin runs through the changes to the CAP, coming into force in the new year.
The Common Agricultural Policy, or CAP as it is affectionately known, is up for renewal, with the revised policy lasting from 2023 to 2027. A key part of the Europe-wide agricultural groundwork is the renewed focus on reaching and realising environmental ambitions, which continue to dominate political discourse in the west.
Amongst the biggest changes to the policy is the changes in stocking rates. Under the new regulations, farmers will need to keep their stocking rate below 1.4 LU/ha, (Livestock units per hectare). This is a decrease from the previous rate of 1.5 LU/ha. However, the rewards for meeting this target will incentivise farmers to pursue this environmentally more sustainable course of actions.
If a farmer manages to keep their LU/ha under 1.4 and above 0.1, they will be counted as having performed two actions under the eco-scheme, a programme of 8 separate actions, under which at least two must be completed in order to receive total payment. Thus, farmers can effectively hit two birds with one stone by focusing on this one area of their farms. However, this is far easier said than done.
Amongst the chief criticisms of the new CAP is the costliness of many of the stated eco-scheme actions. One of these includes the usage of expensive GPS-based technology to assist in the spreading of fertilisers. Such technology is prohibitively expensive, and so locks lower-income farmers out of the full benefits of the scheme, and allows those of greater means to reap the rewards.
As well as this, Macra na Feirme has been quick to point out that the scheme, while focusing on large-scale environmental issues, does not help young farmers in meaningful ways to achieve success, or even keep their farms in business. According to the farm news website Agriland, Macra have publicly stated that the CAP is a “dismal display of support for young farmers.”
In statistics obtained by Agriland, the number of active young farmers has remained static in Ireland at 6% since 2010.
The new CAP was approved at a meeting of the CAP consultative committee on the 31st of August, and will be in effect until 2027. Farmers have been warned that those using stocking rates for 2023 may have their payments delayed until March 2024.