Thursday 21 September 2017

Minimum payment for farmers agreed at CAP talks

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney

Aideen Sheehan in Luxembourg

IRISH farmers will get a minimum payment of €150 per hectare under reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said today that politicians at EU talks had reached a compromise on the burning issue of how much money will be redistributed.

While this is not yet a done deal until final agreement on CAP reform is reached with the EU parliament, there was agreement in principle in this issue, Mr Coveney said.

He was speaking before the resumption of talks this morning and following marathon negotiations with MEPs which continued till 3am in Luxembourg.

The agreement on a new “landing zone” for redistribution means all farmers will get at least 60pc of  the national average payment which in Ireland means they will get at least €150 per hectare of farmland.

But in order to prevent some larger farmers losing too much under the new shareout of CAP funds, nobody can lose more than 28pc of their current payment, Mr Coveney said.

From an Irish point of view the figure to be redistributed will be €103m out of the €1.2bn that is shared out between farmers in Ireland each year.

“That means an average loss for the farmers who are losing of about 11-12pc and an average gain  of about 35pc for the farmers who are gaining” said Mr Coveney.

“There will be more gainers than losers, about 60,000 farmers gaining and about 50,000 losing.

“We think this is a good middle ground position and I would strongly defend it and I would be surprised if the farming organisations did not support this.

“It was important to have a minimum payment because its important we bring all farmers up to an acceptable level of direct supports,” he added.

The highest earning Irish farmers would lose 28pc from their CAP payments - but they would be on very high payments of around €1,300 a hectare and the measure would be phased in over six years, therefore giving time to adjust.

Politicians also agreed on mandatory top-up payments for young farmers.

Mr Coveney said this was essential as part of the drive to ensure agriculture becomes more innovative as currently only 6pc of European farmers are aged under 35.

However despite the progress in negotiations, Mr Coveney stressed that agreement on CAP reform was “not yet a done deal”.

MEPs have now returned to Brussels so while talks continue in Luxembourg between European Agriculture Ministers and the Commission today, the final negotiations will take place in the Belgian capital tomorrow.

Mr Coveney said that there had been difficulty reaching agreement with the Parliament on who should have responsibility for future decisionmaking on detailed issues such as sugar quotas and other farming policies.

“There is a lot of negotiation yet on how we resolve those issues,” He said

“When you put 40 policiticans in a room you’re not going to get agreement on everything."

However while there might be interesting philosophical discussions about the division of powers of European institutions under the Lisbon Treaty “nobody gives a damn about that” as farmers simply wanted certainty about their payments for the next six years, he said.

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