All farmers must take stock of costs

NIAPA's Michael Clarke
NIAPA's Michael Clarke

As we enter a new year it is time to reflect on events since January 2014 and to take stock of where we are in relation to our farm business and where we intend to be not only in one years’ time but in the foreseeable future, writes NIAPA chairman Michael Clarke.

It is perhaps an opportune time with the advent of implementation of the new CAP reform for all farmers to take stock particularly with reference to farming activity and costs associated with their business.

2014 was a good year for the conservation of fodder and cropping in general so not only is there sufficient winter feed but an opportunity to replenish depleted reserves.

We have always been concerned about farm gate returns and we came together with other like-minded organisations in 2014 to lobby about prices of all commodities, livestock movements, nomads etc, indeed anything which had a negative impact on financial returns to farm businesses.

Reform of CAP was a topic which has exercised the minds of many over the past two years and we are reasonably happy that the proposals agreed are broadly in line with what was adopted by our council and presented to DARD.

At least we have a framework and baseline for our farmers to go forward with in preparation for the submission of the 2015 single farm payment form. It is unfortunate that full and final information is not yet available regarding CAP reform and eligibility although there is plenty of discussion regarding activity, head of holding, greening etc. and there are many and various agreements regarding establishments of entitlements and claimants post 2015.

Single farm payment can only be paid to the farmer who is actively farming the land and who can prove to the satisfaction of DARD that they comply with all conditions in relation to activity with regard to EU legislation.

The submission of the 2015 SFP application will set the baseline for the next five years at least so it is imperative that the information provided is correct. All land being farmed must be included and it is important that maps are checked to ensure they are correct.

We will be endeavouring to submit as many forms as possible online and we are suggesting that farmers come to us as early as possible after the beginning of March whether they have received their paper application or not. This will help us spread our workload and provide as efficient a service as possible.

We are presently contacting those farmers who we help with nitrates derogations so we can put together their records for submission to NIEA. For those considering applying for derogation in the future now is also the time to consider last year’s records with a view to applying in February.

We have recently submitted our response to the draft budget in relation to agriculture and are concerned at the proposed cuts to be implemented as a result of a shortfall in funding. Our primary concern is the stability, sustainability and potential growth of our industry to provide all or part of the income for farming families and aid the economy of the province. We would be opposed to any reduction in frontline service by DARD. With regard to delaying the opening of new measures, we believe that a new environmental scheme is long overdue and its introduction should not be delayed. There is also a need for capital investment on farms as a basis for sustainability and potential springboard for growth. With regard to support for on farm investment, it is imperative that all farmers are aware as early as possible of what support may be available for any projects to enable them to plan for any future investment.

My wish for 2015 is health and prosperity for not only farmers but everyone in the province.