CAP deal likely next week
The talk from Brussels would appear to suggest that a deal on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform looks likely to be agreed next week.
Those close to the talks say that while the full package will not be signed off at the scheduled Council of Farm Ministers meeting in Luxembourg next Monday and Tuesday, the nuts and bolts will all be in place and ready for a final bit of tightening in Brussels later in the week.
As with all grand initiatives from Europe, there is an amount of choreography and theatre involved in the process that is required to satisfy the private agendas of the various parties.
However, if all goes to plan and no last-minute problems arise, the Irish presidency and the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, will be celebrating a major achievement next week.
It is too early to talk of the specifics of the package given that many of the finer points could be subject to change between now and Friday week. And as with all agreements, the devil is very much in the detail.
But there appears to be few surprises in the broad thrust of the package from those outlined over the last few weeks.
Greening and the internal convergence of Single Farm Payments (SFP) at national level remain the primary areas of concern from an Irish perspective.
The greening measures being suggested at the moment, particularly the requirement for crop rotations, will cause difficulties for tillage farmers. However, the acceptance of permanent pasture for greening is a serious plus for livestock farmers.
In terms of internal convergence, it appears that a compromise between the approach taken by EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos and that of Minister Coveney is likely.
The Commission's insistence on a move to a minimum SFP will be accepted and all that's at issue now is the level at which it will be set.
Commissioner Ciolos had sought a minimum of 75pc of the national average, which for Ireland would mean a minimum of €196/ha. The compromise could see the level set at anywhere between 55pc and 65pc or €130-160/ha.
Interestingly, it has already been suggested that some measure be introduced in Ireland to limit payments on uplands compared to those paid on more productive lowlands.
The figure or co-efficient being touted would limit the average value of the SFP on upland to a quarter of the national average or €65/ha.
This proposal has already provoked opposition in the west, where farmers have labelled it as regionalisation by the back door and a further attempt to restrict the extent of actual convergence of total SFP funds.
We will wait to see how this one plays out.
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