Farmer Focus: Uncertainty remains over NI CAP rules

There is a feeling that spring is in the air. We returned from a brilliant week on the ski slopes to both snow and rain at home, which left fields very soggy.

However, the weather seems to be picking up now and land is drying out. I am keen to get back into fields to top-dress winter crops and envy those who have already done so.

See also: Read more from our arable Farmer Focus writers

I am not sure what area of spring crops I will have this year due to continued uncertainty about the application of the new CAP scheme and who can or cannot claim the entitlements.

Some landowners still think they can become “active farmers” and claim an entitlement they are not actually entitled to. Others still have questions about greening. This situation has not been helped by our department, which is at the moment conducting “information roadshows”. I attended one recently, but the information available was very limited.

Many questions were not answered, a final guidance booklet was not available and officials were unable to show us what the new application forms would look like, how we would be required to fill them in and what evidence would be required in support.

This is despite our minister encouraging farmers to attend the roadshows and publicly stating that farmers need to “understand the requirements of the new scheme and the information they will need to provide”.

I can only conclude that our minister and her officials are at best letting farmers down badly by being unprepared for these meetings and at worst treating our industry with disdain. It is an extremely unsatisfactory situation given that we are in the middle of March and we are all going to be very busy on farm over the next six weeks. 

I very much hope that by the time you read this, there will have been a dramatic improvement in both the CAP information process and work on farm. If we are to continue to produce food as well as look after the environment, the least we should be able to expect is the full support of our own agriculture department.

Robert Moore

Robert Moore farms on the Molenan Estate in Northern Ireland, where his family have farmed for more than 200 years. He switched to arable production in the late 1990s, away from beef and sheep. He still has a small suckler herd on non-suitable arable land.