Up to 10,000 non-active farmers in Northern Ireland are to be culled from the Single Farm Payment (SFP) system ahead of new CAP Reform policy being introduced in 2015, according to a report.

The 27,000 farmers left in the system who comply with the new definition of an active farmer will, therefore receive a larger share of the Northern Ireland SFP pot in 2015, which has a current balance of £325 million for 2014 claims, according to the report in Northern Ireland's Farm Week.

Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) said it had received extensive submissions during the consultation period, just closed, on CAP Reform, and specifically the SFP system.

Loading article content

This week DARD Minister Michelle O'Neill gave an update to the "active farmer" definition.

A decision also has to be taken on whether the current entitlements will roll over for the 2015 claim, or if all entitlements will be abolished at the end of 2014 and new ones issued in 2015.

The latter is probably the preferred option for DARD, as it will automatically cull out the non-active farmers and save on paperwork.

Basically, if a farmer or landowner is farming their own land and claiming the SFP, they will be considered as an active farmer.

However, those landowners renting out land as "conacre" (seasonal lets: a third of the land in Northern Ireland is let on this basis) are advised to consider selling their entitlements by this April, as an active farmer is defined as one who "enjoys the decision making" on the land.

DARD Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "My position during CAP Reform ­negotiations has been that direct payments, which are intended as an income support for farmers, should in future go to those who are actively farming the land."

NFU Scotland deputy director of policy Andrew Bauer commented: ­"Reflecting the views of its membership, NFUS's ­position has remained consistent throughout the CAP Reform process: payments must be targeted towards active farmers.

"'Slipper farming' has undermined the credibility of the current CAP in the eyes of the general public, and angered hardworking farmers. We now have an opportunity to correct this, and we will shortly be putting our recommendations to Scottish Government as to how this can be done."

Market round-up

The Cumberland and Dumfriesshire Farmers Mart sold 4906 prime hoggs in Longtown on Thursday to a top of £108 per head and 257p per kg to average 190p (-3.1p on the week).

There were also 3982 cast sheep forward, when heavy ewes sold to £118 for Texels and averaged £61.65 (-£1.16).

Meanwhile light ewes peaked at £58 for Blackfaces and levelled at £42.66 (+64p). Rams sold to £100 for a Texel and averaged £60.42 (+£8.50).