Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 18 August 2017

Phil Hogan commits to future of direct payments - worth €1.2bn to Irish farmers

European Union Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters/Francois
European Union Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters/Francois
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan has given a key commitment to maintain direct payments to European farmers, which are worth around €1.2bn annually to Irish farmers, in the upcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

His comments were made in a speech in the European Parliament and come despite his previous warning of a €3bn "black hole" in the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) after the UK leaves the European Union.

Indeed, the extent of the expenditure on the CAP of around €56bn a year was already under question, before Brexit ever became a concern.

Hogan, who recently announced a 12-week consultation process on reforming the CAP post-2020, said he is "determined to maintain basic income support and an effective safety net through a system of direct payments".

“That continues to be an essential element of the CAP without which the viability of perhaps tens of thousands of farmers would be seriously compromised,” he said.

However, the Commissioner also warned that the extent to which the EU can continue intervene in times of poor market prices will be more limited in the future.

“2015 and 2016 were difficult years for farmers and the European Commission had to intervene on a number of occasions to support hard-pressed producers, mobilising over €1.5bn in taxpayers' money. 

“The Commission's actions are a demonstration of our commitment to stand by our farmers, but intervention of this nature is not sustainable and we need to look, therefore, at how we ensure that we have an effective toolkit at our disposal to react quickly and effectively in the event of future price shocks,” he said.


Young Farmers

In his speech, the Commissioner also placed a huge emphasis on young farmers and generation renewal in the sector.

“What I want to is to encourage a new generation of young farmers and agri-entrepreneurs into the industry.

“That means breaking down the traditional barriers that discourage their entry, such as access to land and to finance,” he said.

Environment

Commissioner Hogan also stressed that Sustainable Agricultural Production is another area addressed in the public consultation, and something that all of us must embrace,

He said a major challenge for the EU agricultural sector will be to maintain its high level of production while ensuring a more sustainable use of its natural resources.

“It is up to us all to stand up and face these twin challenges. The fact is that the challenge of food security, just like the challenge of climate change, is not going away.

“Embracing the principle of a more sustainable system of agricultural production should in my view mean asking farmers to raise their level of environmental ambition and rewarding them for that contribution.

“It is also important to acknowledge the enormous contribution that farmers have made in recent decades, reducing their level of greenhouse gas emissions by 23pc since 1990 . 

“There is sometimes a lazy narrative that likes to portray farmers as part of the problem when it comes to addressing the climate challenge, but in reality farmers must be and indeed already are part of the solution,” he said.

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