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'EU's agriculture budget is going to be a problem' warns McGuinness


Mairead McGuinness MEP

Mairead McGuinness MEP

Mairead McGuinness MEP

MEPs and farmers have hit out at rumoured moves to trim EU agricultural spending post-2020.

European Parliament president Antonio Tajani was forced to deny last week that he was working on proposals to shift Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds to pay for migration, defence, jobs and climate change, following a report in Politico.

Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness said Mr Tajani had "never made any declarations - either in public or in private - with regards to possible cuts to the EU agricultural budget."

European Commission officials also expressed surprise at the report.

But Ms McGuinness said that EU countries, including Ireland, will have to "have a conversation" about whether they are willing to contribute more to the budget once the UK leaves the EU.

"If Europe wants to be stronger in a post-Brexit era, it will look at spending more," Ms McGuinness said.

She also said that the priorities of CAP spending will have to change given the EU's climate commitments. "The overall budget for agriculture is going to be a problem," she told the Farming Independent. "The reorientation of the CAP to make its goals more climate smart, more climate friendly," she said, "is also something we should focus on."

EU farmers' federation Copa and Cogeca met the bloc's budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger, last week, telling him to maintain agriculture spending "at current levels".

The group "strongly" disagrees with proposals to cut CAP spending in the EU budget in the future, it said in a statement.

Mr Oettinger told the group that there were "serious challenges facing the EU" and that Brexit will mean EU budget losses. However, he said agriculture should not become "a victim" of the cuts. He has suggested delaying talks on the EU's new long-term budget for 2020-27 - slated to begin early next year - until there is more clarity on the UK's Brexit settlement.

EU farm subsidies accounted for 60pc of farm income last year, according to the Irish Farmers' Association, which also wants to maintain CAP spending at its current eves of €58bn a year. Ireland gets around €1.5bn a year in direct payments from that envelope.

Lobbying campaign

The fate of the CAP post-2020 - including subsidies, environmental rules and market intervention - is being discussed in earnest ahead of a Commission ideas paper due later this year.

Several EU countries, including Ireland, are already mounting a major lobbying campaign ahead of the paper's publication.

Estonia, which assumes the EU's six-monthly rotating presidency in July, intends to focus its work on helping farmers cope with market volatility and other risks, said rural affairs minister Tarmo Tamm.

The Commission will publish the results of a public consultation on the CAP post-2020 in July.

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