Scottish threat to Northern Ireland’s £70m CAP payments

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union has said that Northern Ireland must be on its guard as Scotland once again challenges the UK government to reverse its approach to CAP funding.

Their focus is on the extra funding the UK secured because the UK single farm payment figure was below the EU average.

Scotland sees this as a fairer allocation of UK funds – but the UFU says it is a decision that would be ‘unjust and devastating’ for Northern Ireland farmers. It could cost them £70 million a year, which is a third of Northern Ireland’s single farm payment.

Scotland maintains that the extra funding was effectively down to them and as a result is calling for the reallocation of this convergence dividend, but UFU president, Ian Marshall, disagrees.

“The news that Scotland is still pushing for CAP funds to be redistributed comes as no surprise.

“It was dissatisfied when London decided to retain the historical CAP allocations and secured a review of the CAP budget allocations in 2017,” he said.

“It is important to note however, that the overall UK allocation was, in part, bolstered by Northern Ireland which as a region had higher than average production and efficiencies that historically generated more direct CAP support proportionately. This was ultimately reflected in the total amount secured by the UK,” he said.

Mr Marshall added that Northern Ireland farm businesses, on average, receive much less support per business than their counterparts in Scotland.

“Farm businesses here are more dependent on this support due to their size, and for Scotland to question the rationale behind the allocation is extremely disappointing.”

“Currently the UK single farm payment average is €229 per hectare, for Scotland the average is roughly €130 and in Northern Ireland it is €329.

“While this may look unfair, the land, farm types and size are very different, but the difference is a prime target for Scottish politicians.

The UFU warned when the decision was taken by DARD to opt for a single region CAP model, with an average direct payment well above the UK average, that Northern Ireland would be an easy target, and that this could strengthen Scotland’s case. This is what is now happening.

“If Scotland were to succeed Northern Ireland would lose an estimated £70 million per year of our total single farm payment budget which would be a disaster for the farming industry.

“Farmers still do not receive a fair share of market returns and the fact that almost 90 per cent of the total income from farming here is from CAP payments just goes to show how important the single farm payment is to farm businesses,” said Mr Marshall.

The Union says it will continue to monitor the Scottish campaign and work with local politicians and others to ensure Northern Ireland’s CAP allocation is protected in any policy review.

Commenting on the matter a DARD spokesman said: “The allocation question has been fully discussed by DARD with the administrations of England, Scotland and Wales and the final allocation reflected the balance of opinion at that time, as well as the logic of the arguments.

“Nothing has changed since this decision was taken which would suggest that the issue needs to be reopened at this time or that the decision would be any different.”