Ulster Farmers Union president, Ian Marshall, says the CAP simplification package announced by the EU farm commissioner, Phil Hogan, is a positive step forward and something the UFU has been seeking for some time.
However he believes the European Commission must go further to make sure all farmers gain and see a real practical difference from plans to cut the red tape burden.
“While the package contains many specific proposals, the UFU is particularly supportive of his plan to change the administrative penalty system for direct support,” he said.
As of 2016, farmers should be able to benefit from ‘preventative preliminary checks’ to identify problems with applications. This would allow them to provide corrections without fines or penalties, up to 35 days after the final submission date.
“This will be a much more satisfactory situation where honest mistakes are made,” said Mr Marshall.
Another major concern for farmers has been the proportionality of administrative penalties.
“We are encouraged the commissioner has asked his officials to look at how the penalty system for direct support can be simplified. This is about moving to penalty levels that reflect the seriousness or otherwise of the breach of the rules,” said Mr Marshall. He added that he also welcomed confirmation that inspection rates will be reduced for member states from five to one per cent, if they have a sound compliance record with the Commission and an up-to-date LPIS system.
“This will allow national administrations to implement a more targeted and risk-based approach to controls where the Commission believes they would have the greatest effect,” said the UFU president.
The UFU says however that arable farmers will be disappointed progress has not been made on greening, with no proposals due until 2016.
“This will mean farmers having to wait until 2017 to see any changes implemented. This is disappointing and frustrating as this is one of the biggest red tape burdens of the reformed CAP,” said Mr Marshall.
He added that CAP simplification had been a major objective for the UFU, which made this initiative welcome.
“However we will continue to press for more, and will be keeping a close eye on developments to ensure delivery on greening as well as the other parts of the CAP,” he said.
The UFU says that now the EU farm commissioner has started the process of simplifying elements of the CAP, it will be urgently seeking clarification about what this will mean for farmers in Northern Ireland.