IN spite of last-minute representations by young farmers’ organisation, Macra na Feirme, there is no funding available for the operation of a 2016 National Reserve.
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed confirmed that all of the €24m in funding for the 2015 scheme had been utilised. And, he was non-committal concerning the prospects of a National Reserve Fund for next year.
Up to last week, Macra na Feirme was lobbying strongly for arrangements to be made for young farmers who need to establish entitlements in 2016 through the Basic Payment National Reserve and sought a commitment from Minister Creed on this.
Macra national president Seán Finan said that Macra was seeking a written commitment from the Minister on the provision of a Basic Payment Young Farmer National Reserve every year for the duration of the current CAP, adding that Macra has been a lone voice within the agriculture sector in campaigning for this.
However, their hopes were dashed by the answer given by the Minister to a parliamentary question put by Fianna Fáil TD Pat Casey, who had asked him to make an allocation for 2016 and 2017 for young farmers under the National Reserve Fund. The Minister’s response was that: ‘In 2015 the National Reserve fund was based on a 3% cut to the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) financial ceiling and provided some €24 million in funding which was the maximum financing rate available under the relevant EU regulations.
‘When finalised shortly there will be some 6,000 successful applicants under the 2015 National Reserve. As all of the National Reserve funding has been utilised, there is no funding available to cover the operation of a 2016 National Reserve.’
For 2016, the only source of funding available to the National Reserve will be from clawback on the sale of entitlements without land and indications are that the level of funds that will arise from this will be minimal. The Minister also said that it is too late to apply the entitlement of EU member-states to apply a linear cut to the value of all farmers’ entitlements under the BPS in order to provide funding for the National Reserve.
The Minister said: ‘The operation of a National Reserve for 2016 would require the reopening of the 2016 BPS for applications as, under EU regulation, applicants to the National Reserve must also submit a valid BPS application for the year in which they submit the National Reserve application.
‘As the closing date for BPS applications has now passed, farmers have finalised arrangements regarding the declaration of land for the 2016 scheme year which would have implications for potential National Reserve applicants. The re-opening of BPS applications at this stage would likely delay the processing of such applications for 2016, with the consequent potential for delay in payments.
‘Furthermore, at this stage, many young farmers may have entered arrangements to lease in entitlements in 2016 in order to avail of the Greening payment and Young Farmers’ Scheme payment.’
The Minister pointed out that ‘EU regulations governing the scheme provide that entitlements that are unused for two consecutive years are surrendered to the National Reserve, concluding: ‘While I am very supportive of the provision of a National Reserve, decisions in relation to the Reserve for 2017 will be considered once the position on potential funding arising from unused entitlements and clawback has been established.’