Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 28 February 2017

Farm groups want more clarity on reform of CAP

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Greater clarity on key elements of the reform package for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will be required before the full impact of the changes can be assessed.

Irish farmer representatives described the proposals as being "broad on outline but short on detail".

While the changes provided the framework for a revamp of EU farm policy, it would take an agreement next summer on the legislative proposals and the new CAP budget to put flesh on the bones, one farmer representative commented.

The reform package, which will form the basis for Europe's agricultural policy from 2013 to 2020, was announced by EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Dacian Ciolos in Brussels last week.

Commissioner Ciolos said the programme aimed to deliver a 'greener' CAP that would support 'active' food producers.

He said the new regime would also include a special scheme for 'small farms' and put a ceiling on the level of direct payments which could be drawn down by an individual farmer or farm business.

The decision to retain Disadvantaged Area payments in Pillar II, the rural development arm of CAP, was welcomed by the Irish farm organisations.

Worryingly, however, Commissioner Ciolos reiterated his intention to introduce more equity in the distribution of direct payment between member states and restated his opposition to basing future farm payments on historical production during specified reference periods.

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Ireland currently receives €1.3bn in direct payments under the CAP, with the average payment to Irish farmers being €308/ha.

The average payment for the EU as a whole is €215/ha but Eastern European states receive much less, with Romania getting the lowest payment at €31/ha.

Given that additional funding will not be forthcoming for CAP, any move towards levelling farmer payments across the EU will result in reduced payments to western states.

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, Commissioner Ciolos underlined the importance of making CAP, "greener, fairer, more efficient and more effective".

He pointed out that CAP was not just for farmers but for all EU citizens and insisted that it needed to be both economically and environmentally competitive.

The reform package stayed very close to the leaked document from last month. Three options for a revised CAP were put forward by the Commission for consideration by the member states and EU Parliament.

Aid

The proposal most likely to be adopted would see farmers receive a basic payment plus an additional aid for compulsory 'greening' actions or 'public goods'.

Market support measures such as intervention and aid to private storage would also be retained.

There was a mixed reaction to the proposals from the Irish farm organisations.

IFA president John Bryan said any redistribution of direct payments would be "devastating" for Irish productive farms "across all enterprises".

"This would seriously undermine agricultural production in Ireland, with damaging consequences for farm incomes, agricultural output, food exports, jobs and the rural economy," Mr Bryan claimed.

He said the options included in the Commission's document would lead to a major shift in farm supports from the high-cost production systems in Ireland and Western Europe to the low-cost economies of Eastern Europe.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin welcomed the retention of the Disadvantaged Area payments in Pillar II of CAP. He pointed out that moving this payment to Pillar I would have cost Irish farmers €200m.

Mr Gilmartin said the reform proposals would require a long transitional period and adequate funding.

"The proposals do represent a major change from the historic model and it is obvious now that we need to prepare for a different support system.

"However, in our view, any change would have to be gradual and phased in over a period of not less than five years," Mr Gilmartin said.

He also questioned how the Commission could easily define what constituted an 'active' farmer or a 'small farm' and how aid could be targeted to these groups.

Irish Independent