More EU countries join rising tide against cuts to farm budgets
EU chief praises commissioner Phil Hogan for steering CAP talks 'elegantly and brutally'
The momentum against cuts to the EU's farm budget is growing, with advocacy groups, MEPs and a majority of national governments now actively campaigning against the Commission.
There are now 20 (out of 28) member states opposing the Commission's proposed 5pc overall cut to the Common Agricultural Policy, following an initial six countries, including Ireland, who signed up to a written declaration before the budget proposal was even published.
France led the charge at last week's farming ministers' meeting in Luxembourg, calling for an increase of the CAP budget. The current Commission proposal would leave Irish farmers down 3.9pc in direct payments and 15pc in rural development spending.
Agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan told the ministers that he "would be very happy to see an increase in the CAP budget" but that he is "not the one who needs to be persuaded".
"The only way in which the CAP budget can be increased is at the expense of some other policy area," Mr Hogan told the ministers. "That is not a decision for the European Commission," he said, adding that the Commission's initial proposal - which has to be agreed by MEPs and EU governments together - is "fair and reasonable".
He also warned that the CAP "must increasingly be seen as a market-orientated policy" and that "farmers and food producers must heed market signals" - especially in the dairy, pigmeat and sugar sectors, where there has been a marked increase in production.
Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said it amounted to only "moderate" cuts for Irish farmers, and that Mr Hogan was steering the discussions "elegantly and brutally", calling him "one of the best" commissioners on his team.
But Pekka Pesonen, the head of EU farmers' federation Copa and Cogeca, told an event last week that the budget was still a "major concern", and needed more safeguards for farmers' income.