Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson in an address to a group of farmers in the Boho Community Centre, Fermanagh affirmed Sinn Féin’s support for transition to a flat rate Single Farm Payment system preferably by 2015.
Ms Anderson told the farmers:
“I have met with newly formed SDA groups and listened to the views of the farmers in areas such as this and I have to say my party, and I as its MEP, support those views.
“We believe that splitting the north into two or more regions makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and is merely an attempt to create a two tier system of payments which will limit the impact on areas outside the SDA by further discriminating against the SDA. Therefore we support the single region model and are determined to see it implemented.
“Another major issue is the transition to a flat rate of Single Farm Payments. Different models have been put forward and I believe that those who are trying to protect the status quo are in favour of the slowest rate of change possible and that includes the DUP and UUP. I want to state clearly here tonight that the Sinn Féin view is that there should be a transition to a flat rate payment preferably by 2015.” CRÍOCH/ENDS
The full text of Ms Anderson’s address is below.
Good evening everyone,
It is great to be here this evening the beautiful county of Fermanagh, I have had a very busy day meeting farmers in this area and I have learned a lot about the concerns of farmers in the Severely disadvantaged area.
(You should insert here any particular issues from the day that you want to mention)
As an MEP I have been addressing a wide range of issues of interests to the people of the north and I have been very aware of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy which was at its height as I took over as MEP from Bairbre de Brun. I am fully aware of the importance of agriculture to our economy and I am delighted that our Minister Michelle O’Neill along with Arlene Foster has brought forward the Going for Growth strategy which if it receives Executive support has the potential to radically increase our agricultural production which could lever in 1.4 billion of private sector investment potentially creating 15,000 new jobs in the agri-food sector.
But with this in mind, there is a key issue that needs to be front and centre in that strategy and that is fairness. Fairness in the supply chain and fairness in the distribution of EU subsidies.
As you all know, over 10 years ago during the previous CAP reforms a historical injustice was done on the SDA areas. At that time it was decided that the distribution of EU subsidies should be based on production levels in 2002. This gave a distinct advantage to the lowland areas, particularly beef finishers and the dairy sector in those areas. Given that you naturally face many challenges trying to farm in the disadvantaged areas, this move brought further disadvantage to farmers living in areas such as this. This was inherently unfair and unjust and can no longer be justified.
Farmers in the SDA areas are the backbone of the agricultural industry and these areas need to be protected or our wider farming sector cannot continue in its current path never mind meet the challenges in the Going for Growth strategy.
In the implementation of this current CAP reform we now have the opportunity to right this historical wrong and stop the discrimination that SDA has faced for the last 10 years and beyond.
I have met with newly formed SDA groups and listened to the views of the farmers in areas such as this and I have to say my party, and I as its MEP, support those views. We believe that splitting of the north into two or more regions makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and is merely an attempt to create a two tier system of payments which will limit the impact on areas outside the SDA by further discriminating against the SDA. Therefore we believe in the single region model and are determined to see it implemented.
Another major issue is the transition to a flat rate of Single Farm Payments. Different models have been put forward and I believe that those who are trying to protect the status quo are in favour of the slowest rate of change possible and that includes the DUP and UUP. I want to state clearly here tonight that the Sinn Féin view is that there should be a transition to a flat rate preferably by 2015.
I understand that there are arguments about allowing time to adjust and see some plausibility in these arguments however farmers in SDA were not given any time to adjust 10 years ago, the transition was immediate then and farmers in these areas have had to wait an entire decade to have this issue addressed therefore they should not have to wait a further 5 or 10 years to see the wrong done then, righted.
So I repeat, I feel that a flat rate preferably by 2015 is the most favoured position.
The reason these two issues are crucial to the SDA areas and the wider farming industry is that we need these areas to be able offer a future to our young people if our industry is to be maintained or indeed grow. At the moment it is very difficult to expect any young person to come into farming in these areas with the playing field so sharply tilted against the SDA. We need to change that so that our young people see a future in farming and can see a living in this industry.
Over the next few months we will hear a lot of talk about ‘productive’ farmers and that their interests need to be protected. I see this sort of language as simply code for big lowland farmers who have had all the advantages of enhanced subsidies and good land for years. It is a myth that changing the allocation of EU subsidies to a flat rate will impact on production, it is simply not true and I have had this confirmed to me by DARD economists. The thing that will make a difference to production will be the additional resources that should come from the Executive for the Going for Growth strategy as well as private sector investment and that is what we should be focused on in the time ahead.
To conclude these are positive times for agriculture and if the right decisions are made this CAP reform can be an exciting time for the SDA and I and my party are determined to see the right decisions made. It is great to see the SDA farmers getting themselves organised and making their voices heard, it is refreshing and heartening to hear the voices of the farmers in these areas being made loudly and strongly.
I will support you in your fight for fairness and I will do my upmost to deliver for farmers in areas such as this in the EU.
Thank you for coming here tonight
Go raibh maith agaibh