A FINAL deal on reform of the Common Agriculture Policy is far from certain, MEP Mairead McGuinness has warned.
As farmers protested in Dublin warning Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney not to sell out Irish farming, negotiations between the key players are expected to continue late into the night in Luxembourg.
But with the European Parliament insisting on its new power as an equal decision maker for the first time, the talks will have to move to Brussels on Wednesday to get its approval before a final deal can be struck.
The outcome of separate budget talks in Brussels and Luxembourg tomorrow will also feed into the debate on CAP reform.
The European Parliament is determined to defend its negotiating mandate while also working towards possible compromises, said Ms McGuinness who is part of its CAP negotiating team.
“We are insisting on a mandatory top up payment for young farmers to address the problem of the age structure in agriculture,” she said.
Young farmers group Macra na Feirme warned that Europe cannot be fed by pensioners.
Currently Ireland has more farmers over 80 than under 35 and incentives are desperately needed in CAP reform to reverse that, said Macra president Kieran O’Dowd.
“Minister Coveney has been a strong advocate for the case for young farmers but must not capitulate to vested interests during the final hours of horse trading,” he said.
The level of redistribution of CAP payments between farmers within countries, a ceiling on payments to individuals and “greening” measures requiring ecofriendly farming methods were all contentious yesterday.
However progress was being made according to insiders, though Ms McGuinness said “a final agreement while in sight is not at all certain”.
At a demonstration outside the Department of Agriculture in Dublin, the Irish Farmers Association warned Mr Coveney not to broker a deal that would redistribute too much money from more productive farmers.
IFA deputy president Eddie Downey said Mr Coveney “cannot allow a deal that will devastate productive agriculture”.
Around 150 farmers protested with livestock to keep up pressure on the government to get a deal that suits Irish needs.
Irish farmers currently get €1.2bn a year in direct payments but the EU wants to move towards a more equal payment per hectare of land instead of basing payments on how much food was produced a decade ago.
There were indications last night that the compromise solution could be to ensure every farmer gets at least 60pc of the average payment per hectare and that could come down even further today.
EU Commissioner Dacian Ciolos has made redistribution of CAP payments the central tenet of his reforms aimed at securing a more easily justifiable farm policy with in-built environmental benefits.
These measures would be phased in between now and 2019.