Hogan fastens his seatbelt for a CAP reform rollercoaster
Downing on politics
For some of us, EU Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, is still "the new man in Brussels". But the reality is that he is near to the half-way mark in his five-year term which ends in November 2019.
Later this month he will open consultations which will begin the process of framing a much changed CAP after the current regime expires in 2020. It is already likely that farmers who break farm safety rules will risk losing their EU grants in that new, post-2020 regime.
Mr Hogan told the Farming Independent he was reluctantly coming to this given the large toll of deaths from farm accidents in 2016. He said the rate of serious workplace accidents was reducing in Ireland and across the EU - but no such progress was happening in farming, where 21 people were killed in Ireland in 2016. Farming has just 6pc of the Irish workforce but last year accounted for 50pc of workplace deaths.
He acknowledged progress was being made via two EU-backed schemes, ie TAMS2 and the Green Cert, especially for young farmers.
"But we have to do more in the light of the recent accidents and heart-breaking tragedies which have hit so many farm families."
The Commissioner said farmers can already lose grant money if they breach pollution control rules or other issues like animal welfare. He said it is time to consider including farm safety in the so-called "cross compliance" regime to help preserve human life.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has revealed that 21 people died in farm accidents in 2016. It was down from a record high of 30 fatalities in 2014 but an increase of the 2015 death toll of 18. HAS chief executive, Martin O'Halloran, welcomed the commissioner's comments.
Commissioner Hogan said these proposed changes will form part of those exploratory talks on a new farm price regime which will apply until after 2020. These talks will be dominated by the ongoing Brexit negotiation which are due to open at the end of March and take two years.