A Private Members Motion on Agriculture was moved in the Dail on October 9th by Deputy Éamón O'Cuív. In his address Deputy Wallace highlighted the inequalities of the single farm payment scheme which favours larger farmers. The payment is based on farm production in '99 and '01 which makes it outdated and unrepresentative of farmers' situations at present. You can watch Deputy Wallace's speech here.The agricultural sector is very important to Ireland. I come from an agricultural background and was born on a 36 acre farm. I have been close to farming all my life. A couple of weeks ago I met members of the United Farmers Association, an organisation which represents smaller farmers. The association has raised valid points in respect of the single payment. Agriculture is in a good state at present but I fear that small farmers will be in a difficult position in the future. A considerable number of small farms have disappeared and if we do not make the system fairer, many more will go. I have nothing against big farmers doing well but we have an obligation to help the most vulnerable and to provide fairness, equity and balance. The United Farmers Association was at pains to point out that the CAP aim of ensuring a fairer standard of living for those who engage in agriculture has failed thus far to provide a floor on incomes that could stop the exodus of farming families from the land. The current system lacks equity and fairness and this must be remedied if the CAP's policy objectives are to be realised in a meaningful way. The association recommended a ceiling of 80 ha on the number of hectares qualifying for payment. That is not an unreasonable ceiling. In response to a parliamentary question I submitted regarding the association's recommendation of a flat rate of payment per hectare, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine indicated that he was open to working towards this objective. We should endeavour to achieve it to provide greater fairness. The Minister admitted that 76,000 Irish farmers would gain an average of 86% on their current payments if they received a flat rate per hectare, whereas 57,000 farmers would lose an average of 33%. That does not sound unfair to me. I am sure Members have seen the article by Fintan O'Toole in The Irish Times of yesterday which argued that the current system locks in historical privilege because it is based on stock owned in 1999 and 2001. This skews the benefits towards farmers who are better off and essentially means that the more money a farmer has, the more the EU will give him or her. In 2008, which was one of the few years in which the figures were released, 37% of single farm payments went to the top 10% of farmers. Larry Goodman's company received more than €500,000, Kepak farms received €346,000 and eight other farmers received more than €200,000 each that year. This needs to be challenged. Putting a ceiling on the number of hectares qualifying for payment must be a good and fair proposal. Currently some farmers receive €1,200 per hectare, while others receive as little as €25. The Friends of the Irish Environment argue that 80% of funds go to 25% of the best-off farmers and the society describes the proposed new flat rate as a salvation for farmers on disadvantaged lands in rural Ireland. Given that much of rural Ireland is under serious threat from what I regard as a worldwide neoliberal agenda, I believe that if the system was made more fair for smaller farmers, it would do much for rural Ireland.