Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

O’Neill announces further CAP reform decisions

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today announced a number of further decisions on the implementation of CAP reform from 2015.

The decisions relate primarily to the support that will be made available to young farmers and new entrants under the new Pillar 1 regime.

Speaking from the Balmoral Show the Minister said: “I have decided that under the Young Farmers’ Scheme, the level of additional support to be provided will be set at 25% of the total regional average direct payment per hectare. That equates to about €84 per hectare. This will ensure that all qualifying young farmers will benefit from the same level of support per hectare, which is, I believe, the fairest way of setting the payment. This support will be available on up to a maximum of 90 hectares per claimant and the overall budget for the Scheme limited to 2% of the total direct payments budget. These are the maximum levels available to me and will ensure that we give young farmers as much help as possible during their important early years as head of holding.”

The Minister explained that she has decided to add a qualification requirement for those wishing to avail of this support and said: “In the consultation document, it had been originally suggested that this be set as a Level 3 qualification in agriculture or in a closely related subject. Having considered the views expressed by stakeholders, I have decided to reduce this to a Level 2 qualification in agriculture or in a related subject containing at least a farm business management module.

“I believe that it is the right thing to do to reward those who have already invested in themselves through education. This decision will also provide a substantial incentive to encourage those who do not have the required qualification to acquire it as soon as possible. Not only will this now bring direct financial rewards in terms of substantial additional support under the Young Farmers’ Scheme, it will also prove beneficial in securing the long term success of their farm businesses.

“For those who do not currently have the minimum required qualification, I am ensuring that CAFRE will provide the necessary courses, on a part time basis and locally available wherever possible, to enable young farmers to obtain the minimum qualifications. These courses will be made available starting this autumn and will thus provide a ready pathway for those who want to be in a position to claim the Young Farmers’ Scheme top up at the first available opportunity in 2015.

“I have also decided to implement the same Level 2 qualification requirement for those wanting to apply to the regional reserve for an allocation as either a young farmer or a new entrant. This is part of ensuring that we have a well skilled, professional industry moving forward and is entirely in keeping with the ambitions set out in the Going for Growth report.”

The Minister also announced that in order to help ensure a fair and defensible distribution of Pillar 1 support, a cap of €150,000 will be applied to all individual claims made under the Basic Payment Scheme. She said: “This is higher than I would have liked, but it is as far as I am allowed to go under the CAP agreement. Although it is likely to affect only a handful of claimants, I believe it is an important principle that income support payments under the CAP should be limited in this way, otherwise they are discredited in the eyes of the taxpayer and of wider society.”

A summary of all CAP Reform Pillar 1 decisions to date is available on the DARD website athttp://www.dardni.gov.uk/summary_of_cap_decisions_to_15_may_2014.pdf

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