Farm Ireland
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Wednesday 7 December 2016

EU rejects change to SFP 'greening' spend

But Commissioner Ciolos to re-examine 2014 reference year plan

Published 18/01/2012 | 06:00

The EU Commission has ruled out any change in the proportion of farm payments which must be spent on the proposed 'greening' element of CAP.

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However, in an exclusive interview with the Farming Independent ahead of his visit to the IFA's AGM in Dublin tomorrow, EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos has opened the door to re-examining the controversial 2014 reference year proposal.

It has been proposed by the Commission that 30pc of the national envelope for direct payments -- around €380m in the case of Ireland -- must be allocated to greening measures.

This has been opposed by farmer representatives, but Commissioner Ciolos insisted that greening was an "investment for the future and a new contract between farmers and society as a whole".

"Some people seem to imply that our greening measures will be taking money away from farmers. In fact, it is more the other way around," Commissioner Ciolos said.

"In the context of economic hardship and cuts in public spending, I think it is vital that we make clear to taxpayers that the CAP is not just for farmers, it is for all citizens -- and that farmers provide a number of key environmental public goods which are not remunerated by the market," he added.

There was better news for Irish farmers on the proposal to make 2014 the reference year for future single farm payments (SFP), which farmer representatives have warned will cause havoc in the land-rental market.

Commissioner Ciolos said he was aware of the particular difficulties this caused for Ireland and that he was seeking to address the issue.

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"The idea of taking 2014 as a reference year was to wipe the slate clean and provide the most accurate figures for [EU] agricultural area. This remains a priority, but of course we must be alert to potential unintended consequences and address these also," he said.

"I am aware of this problem of land rents in Ireland -- and expect to understand the problem better by the time I leave. It's precisely because of issues such as this that I am touring the member states. Equally, I hope you will also understand that the question will not be resolved by the time I leave on Thursday."

On the issue of moving to a flat-rate SFP, Commissioner Ciolos accepted that this was not the "perfect solution".

However, he said it was "more consistent" with a forward-looking policy which invested in agriculture and rural areas, than a system based on "past production".

The commissioner insisted the move to the flat-rate payment would take place over a reasonable transition period.

He added that member states would have "some flexibility" on a portion of the direct payments in order to cushion the impact of the changeover.

Mr Ciolos said member states could adopt a regional or coupled approach to payments for specific areas or sectors, or provide top-ups in less favoured areas.

"One of the key elements that we have tried to underline in this reform is the way in which our Rural Development Policy complements the direct payments system and provides additional investment options for individual farmers," he said.

Target

The commissioner admitted that the target date of January 1, 2014, for the CAP reform process may not be met unless the wider EU budget was agreed by the end of this year.

"Clearly we cannot have a CAP reform agreement until we know the budget that will be available," he said. "But if [the] heads of government can agree the EU budget for 2014-2020 at the end of this year, I am confident that we can reach a political agreement on CAP reform early in 2013 -- under the Irish [EU] presidency."

Commissioner Ciolos also warned that an agreement which was more understandable to the wider society would be needed if agriculture was to maintain its current share of the EU budget.

"This is why we are also looking for a fairer redistribution of support. Our proposals will mean a modest redistribution of funds between sectors, between regions and between member states," he said.

A total of 800 IFA members are expected to attend the RDS tomorrow to hear the Commissioner's address.

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