Dáil Éireann - Volume 582 - 24 March, 2004

Written Answers. - Farm Retirement Scheme.

  62. Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will make a statement on the way in which the Government proposes to address the problems facing farmers on the early retirement scheme under the decoupled single farm payment. [9248/04]

  Mr. Walsh: My Department is involved in working groups and in continuing discussions with the European Commission on the detailed rules for implementing the mid-term review agreement. I have already raised a number of issues relating to farmers who have retired under the early [1195] retirement schemes and the implications for them of decoupling and the single payment scheme.

Under the European Council regulation introducing the single payment scheme, a farmer may have access to the scheme if he or she was an active farmer during the reference years 2000, 2001 and 2002, and received payments under the livestock premia and/or arable aid schemes. In addition, farmers for whom entitlements will be established must activate those entitlements in 2005 by continuing to farm and submitting an area aid declaration in that year. In general, farmers must also have an eligible hectare of land for each payment entitlement.

Farmers participating in the early retirement scheme before the commencement of the reference period will not have any entitlements established for them under the single payment scheme. That is because they had already retired from farming and their obligations under the early retirement scheme preclude them from returning to farming in the future. The persons who were leasing those retired farmers’ lands and were active farmers in the reference period will have entitlements established for them. It should be noted that entitlements are attached to the farmer who was actively farming during the reference period and not to the land. I should point out, however, that, during the Council negotiations last year, I secured agreement that farmers, including offspring of farmers who retired before the reference period, who take over the holding of the retired farmers at some date in the future will be able to apply to the national reserve for payment entitlements under the single payment scheme.

Farmers who entered the early retirement scheme during or after the reference period will have entitlements established for them, provided they were actively farming during the reference period and received payment under the relevant schemes. Since those farmers undertook to give up farming definitively when they joined the early retirement scheme, they will not be able to obtain payment under the single payment scheme in 2005 or thereafter. The European Council regulation provides for such entitlements to revert to the national reserve. However, the question of whether retired farmers in that category should be allowed to activate entitlements — not for their own use but with a view to leasing them out in 2005 and thereafter — is one of the items still under discussion in the context of the Commission detailed rules regulation. Agreement on the detailed rules is not expected until the end of this month or early in April, and it would not be helpful to speculate on the final outcome.