Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 24 June 2017

Commission unmoved despite Irish CAP pitch

Farm bodies make case to retain status quo but Ciolos says change imminent

EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos (centre) listens to Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith (right) as Ireland's main man puts his ideas across on the visit to Stephen Morrison's (left) sheep and suckler beef farm in Co Kildare
EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos (centre) listens to Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith (right) as Ireland's main man puts his ideas across on the visit to Stephen Morrison's (left) sheep and suckler beef farm in Co Kildare
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The EU is continuing on its mission to create a more 'equitable' CAP, which is likely to lead to a squeeze of the Irish single farm payment pot.

This was the clear message from EU Agricultural Commissioner Dacian Ciolos on his visit to Ireland last week.

"The current system is not justifiable after 2013," he said. "It sees considerable differences in the rate of aid that farmers get from one member state to another. Direct payments must be more equitably distributed among member states, regions and types of agriculture."

Before the enlargement of the EU, there were 5.7m farmers, according to Eurostat. This increased to 13.7m with EU expansion.

While the commissioner was adamant that direct payments would remain a part of the support system, he was clear that change was on the way, especially in relation to the issue of inactive farmers in receipt of EU monies.

"The ways these payments are distributed will be adjusted," he said before adding, "direct payments must evolve towards targeting active farmers".

Despite this, the farm organisations reiterated their stance on keeping the existing historical-based payment system. IFA president John Bryan told the commissioner that the current CAP support system best suits Ireland.

The ICSA was more critical of the commissioner's comments. "Commissioner Ciolos was strong on the principle of decoupled supports but fuzzy on how to replace the historical reference period with a better system," said ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin.

After meetings with the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, and Ministers Brendan Smith and Pat Carey, the commissioner addressed the Dáil's Joint Committee on Agriculture. He was then whisked to the Department of Agriculture's campus in Backweston for a meeting with agri-food industry stakeholders, before continuing on to the sheep and suckler beef farm of Stephen Morrison in Co Kildare. Back at Dublin airport, he met with the IFA's national council.

The commissioner stressed the importance that he places on the environmental role of farming during his meetings, suggesting that more payments may be directly linked with the challenges he listed as climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity and depletion of soil.

"Farmers can bring answers to this and we [in the EU] have to support them to adapt their practices to the challenges ahead," he said.

The commissioner also moved to reassure farming representatives over concerns regarding the ongoing Mercosur trade talks between the EU and South American countries.

Farm leaders feared that further concessions on food imports into the EU would be on offer in return for greater access to South American markets for EU-based service companies.

Mr Ciolos said that he had called for a more detailed, up-to-date analysis of costs involved in any deal.

Irish Independent