European Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said EU members opposed to putting more money in to the EU Budget may do so in future as he looks to reform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Mr Hogan estimates 22 member states favour increasing the EU budget and he expects “intense negotiations” in the coming months before member states reach an agreement.
He said he can see countries currently opposed to increasing the budget coming around to the idea on the basis the money is spent on security or defence instead of agriculture and other policy initiatives.
Earlier this month he outlined plans for fundamental changes in EU farm policy for the years 2021 to 2027, this includes proposals that would see CAP payments cut by 5pc.
The policy change will see the overall agriculture budget share drop from 38pc to 28pc, partly due to a €12bn hole caused by the UK's departure from the EU. Spending in other areas such as security and migration will also have an impact.
However, Mr Hogan said he is determined to see that small and medium sized farmers are protected against payment cuts.
“We estimate about 22 member states of the 27 are in favour of contributing additional monies to the EU budget. Not all of them are for agriculture but nevertheless the fact they are prepared to put more money into the Budget is a good starting point,” Mr Hogan said.
“But of course the agreement on the money has to be about unanimity and we have four or five members states who are very strongly against putting any more money at the moment in to the EU budget so I would say there is going to be quite intense negotiations in order to persuade some of those member states to understand policies that are EU coordinated are important.
“I think some of those member states not in favour of putting more money in to the EU budget may do so in the future on the basis that it is for security and defence rather than agriculture but for whatever reason they put more money in the budget it is always a help. Between now and the end of the year I think a lot of the EU leaders will have an opportunity to negotiate.”
Under his proposals basic income Irish farmers receive in the form of CAP Pillar One payments will see a reduction. The Pillar Two monies for rural development will be reduced by 15pc. He said this equates to €47m per year over a seven year period. However, he said the commission is trying to “modernise and simplify” the policy so nations can transfer money between the two pillars as they see fit.
“I am in favour of the fairer distribution of payments to farmers and I want to protect as far as possible the incomes of our small and medium sized farmers but the money has to come from somewhere.
“Member states can use the option of redistributing payments, the capping of payments, they make savings, they can keep that money within their member state and they can use it for redistribution to our small and medium sized farmers or they can use it for rural development.”
He added this was an “opening position” ahead of a series of intense negotiations with ministers and EU leaders.
Mr Hogan met with agriculture ministers on Monday to discuss the proposals.
“These are all proposals that are subject to negotiation. We had the first round of negotiations with ministers from each of the member states and everybody wants to see simplification of the policy, everyone wants to see more money in the policy, who wouldn’t? It is an open position. You don’t agree things at the beginning; you agree them at the end.”