Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 23 April 2018

'We can't stand idly by on CAP budget' - Hogan

Phil Hogan
Phil Hogan

Sarah Collins

European countries must stand up for high food standards and consider paying more into the EU budget to support the Common Agricultural Policy.

The results of the EU public consultation on CAP found the public want high quality food and for farmers to do more to protect the environment.

However, speakers at the conference in Brussels to unveil the consultation results were unclear about how this can be funded given the potential hit to CAP funding from Brexit

"We haven't talked about money at all today, we're talking about policy," said EU agriculture chief Phil Hogan during the conference. "We cannot stand idly by and do nothing."

IFA president Joe Healy said the EU must "step up" support for farmers.

"It must be recognised that low farm incomes remain a major challenge," Mr Healy said.

"Previous cuts to the CAP budget have undermined the effectiveness of this common policy and its ability to provide a fair standard of living for producers."

The head of the ICMSA John Comer said the Irish government needed to consider paying more into the EU budget.

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"If maintaining CAP meant increasing the contributions of the remaining 27 Member States - Ireland included - than that is what must happen," said Mr Comer.

The consultation, conducted earlier this year, got over 322,000 responses, with most respondents repeating traditional criticisms of the CAP, including that it doesn't tackle pollution and benefits only large farmers.

Farmers who responded said the policy was overly bureaucratic and needed to do more to support farm incomes, young farmers and rural communities.

Around 88pc recognised that farm incomes are lower than the EU average.

A European Court of Auditors report last month said EU direct farm aid is not based on a sound needs assessment, and is often not targeted at young farmers.

Exchanges

At the Brussels conference, participants clashed in often emotional exchanges, with Brendan Burns of the European Economic and Social Committee - an assembly of EU trade unions and employers' representatives - saying the CAP amounted to nothing more than a "bad bribe".

But Pekka Pesonen, the head of EU farming federation Copa Cogeca, said many farmers "wouldn't be here" if it weren't for direct subsidies.

"The CAP, despite its shortcomings, is still a fundamental cornerstone of sustainable European Union policies governing food," Mr Pesonen said.

The European Commission is currently drawing up a white paper on the future of the CAP, which it intends to publish in the autumn.

The consultation results will feed into the paper, as will talks on the EU's 2021-27 budget, which have been pushed to next year because of Brexit.

One of the ideas raised by the consultation is that direct payments in the first pillar of the CAP - which are currently paid directly by the EU and based on land ownership - should be tied to specific environmental targets.

Mr Hogan said the consultation showed farmers recognise they need to do more on the environment.

"We can see from the results that Europeans want high quality food; Europeans want farmers to do more to protect the environment; Europeans want more investment in rural areas and, I am pleased to see, two-thirds of farmers are willing to do more for climate and the environment," he said at the conference.

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