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Commission under fire on CAP reforms

The Commission was this week fighting to maintain its position on key elements of its CAP reform package after its proposals came under attack at the Council of Ministers in Luxembourg.

A number of key planks in the document presented by Commissioner Ciolos last November are struggling to gain approval from member states as the pace of the CAP reform discussions picks up.

The greening measures, the proposal to move to an area-based single farm payment (SFP) by 2019, and the capping of individual SFPs all came in for varying degrees of criticism during last week's meeting in Luxembourg.

For Ireland, the increased opposition to the greening measures and movement to an area-based SFP will be welcomed.

Irish representatives in Brussels said there appeared to be growing awareness among member states of the difficulties Ireland had with an area-based SFP.

Reservations concerning the greening measures were also expressed by a group of 14 member states that included Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and Britain.

Under the Ciolos proposals, up to 30pc of the annual national ceiling for direct payments, or close to €90/ha in the case of Ireland, would be linked to specific environmental actions. However, this measure has attracted opposition.

Alternate options on greening were tabled at the Luxembourg meeting, including a suggestion that 10pc of Pillar I funding -- designated for agricultural supports -- would be transferred to Pillar II, the rural development budget, and ring-fenced for environmental schemes.

Another proposal suggested the greening element could be covered by a deepening of cross-compliance or what one official termed "super cross compliance".

It is understood that the proposal to cap individual payments also came under fire, with Germany, Poland, Estonia and the Czech Republic against the move.

Meanwhile, reports from Brussels suggest that the commission had conceded defeat on the issue of a detailed definition of an "active farmer".

The September proposal defined an "active farmer" as one who obtained at least 5pc of their "annual receipts" (excluding subsidies) from agricultural activities.

The definition came in for criticism in an EU Court of Auditors report recently.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin welcomed the opposition to the drive for a reformed CAP based on a flat rate SFP.

Mr Gilmartin described a proposal put forward by Portugal suggesting the maximum cut for any individual farmer would be capped at 8pc per hectare, as "particularly significant". It was supported by Minister Coveney, as well as by Italy.

Meanwhile, the latest European Parliament report CAP reform is due to be published on May 15.

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