The National Beef Association is appalled at the growing number of plans governments and quangos have for the SP (known to farmers as the Single Farm Payment) that has been, or will be, stripped off farmers and put in a range of funding pools for pet projects of Ministers and civil servants.
It was originally stated that the SP was an interim support measure, installed by the Council of Ministers, to help farmers modify their businesses after subsidy was decoupled in 2005, so they would be in a better position to survive when it is removed altogether in four or five years time.
But the Association is now concerned that cash starved governments, and their equally cash starved agencies, see farmers’ SP as the only pool of money available to dip their hands into - and believes they will take as much of it as they can unless they are stopped.
“This is a serious issue. Farmers need SP for temporary capital to help them restructure their management for 2013 and beyond when Pillar One support is expected to be removed entirely and their only income will come from the market – unless they are prepared to sign up to highly restrictive environmental schemes funded by Pillar Two money,” explained NBA director, Kim Haywood.
“However too much SP has already been diverted through modulation into a host of government and agency schemes which do little, or perhaps nothing, to help farmers adjust to the post-decoupling era.”
“And our worry is that when the second phase of the current CAP reforms begins after the current Health Check is completed, even more greedy hands will be in the pot and the farmer, for whom SP was originally intended, will not have enough to complete the job for which it was established.”
The NBA finds it hard to believe just how many new jobs, many of them scheme managers, inspectors or liaison officers, already depend on modulation money for their livelihoods and is worried that even more mouths are about to fasten onto the SP nipple too.
“When we hear senior sections of government, including the Prime Minister, saying that the SP, which for a number of reasons has not been allocated to its intended recipient, should be pooled to help farmers in developing countries we are moved close to despair,” said Ms Haywood.
“Overseas aid is worthy, but specific funds are designated for it, and the same applies to many of the new environmental, social, or rural re-structuring projects that are multiplying now that so much SP is being directed into rural development programmes through modulation.”
“The SP is not a bottomless fund and it should not be reduced to the point it can no longer do the job it was set up for. At least half of the SP re-directed through the Rural Development Programmes is used to cover administration costs and pay wages.”
“SP is not a charity to support desk workers who would otherwise be jobless. It was set up to help farmers through the transition to full subsidy decoupling and that is what it should be left to do,” Ms Haywood added.
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