Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

Budget veto on CAP is rejected by Ciolos

Commissioner hints at special support for grass-based farming

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Support for grass-based farming systems such as Ireland's could feature in the revamped CAP, EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos has indicated.

In an exclusive interview with the Farming Independent, Commissioner Ciolos said there were "strong arguments" for supporting production systems based on grass usage.

The commissioner reiterated the need for a well-funded CAP and rejected suggestions that budgetary constraints would determine farm policy into the future.

However, he once again appeared to rule out the possibility of the Single Farm Payment (SFP) being based on historical reference years.

Referring to Ireland's grass-based farm management systems, Commissioner Ciolos said it merited support from an environmental and sustainability perspective.

"I believe that farmers should be rewarded for the public goods and benefits they provide, which are not rewarded by the market," he said.

"And in that sense I can see there are strong arguments to support grass-based systems as far as they offer a lot of environmental benefits in terms of biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources," he added.

On the issue of CAP funding post-2013, Commissioner Ciolos pointed out that no detailed discussion on the new EU budget had yet taken place at Commission level.

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EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski recently claimed that the overall spend on agriculture should be reduced to about one third of the EU's budget. It currently accounts for 44pc of the overall EU budget.

But the agriculture commissioner insisted that Europe's farm policy could not be driven primarily by budgetary considerations.

"It would be a big mistake to have a reform driven by budgetary constraint. We need to secure our capacity to produce food in Europe in a sustainable way, in a very challenging social, economic and environmental period," Commissioner Ciolos said.

Maintaining that food security was not just a "pet subject" of his, the commissioner pointed to the collapse in grain exports from Russia this summer as an indication of the need for a strong EU farm sector.

"Food security is one of the significant challenges that we face in the years ahead," he insisted.

Citing projections from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation of a 50pc hike in food demand by 2030, Commissioner Ciolos said it was vital that the EU should not become dependent on food imports.

When asked how the SFP would be calculated beyond 2013, the commissioner appeared to rule out the use of historical production figures from given reference years.

"We have strong arguments to maintain a strong, forward-looking policy after 2013 -- but based on what agriculture and our farmers are doing for society today and in the future, rather than what they produced five, 10 or 15 years earlier," he said.

Full interview pages 32-33

Irish Independent