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Saturday 16 December 2017

'CAP is at heart of European project' - Le Foll

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Tom Burke
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Tom Burke

French agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll says there is a European consensus in favour of a "strong" and "reactive" Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Following a think-in at the historic Chambord castle in the Loire Valley last week, Mr Le Foll said a succession of recent market crises called for a CAP that gave farmers the means to cope with future downturns.

"All of the ministers present reiterated their commitment to a common agricultural policy that is at the heart of the European project, at the service of citizens and farmers. It should continue to be an engine for European integration," Mr Le Foll said.

The informal gathering, billed as a rumination on the future of the CAP after the UK's shock decision to quit the EU in June, offered little in the way of substance, though it gave ministers a chance to air their grievances.

The CAP has been criticised for failing to react quickly enough to support farmers crippled by price volatility in the dairy, pork and fruit and vegetable markets.

The system of direct payments to farmers has also come under renewed scrutiny since the Brexit vote, with British conservation groups calling for a shift away from land-based subsidies.

A July report from the European Commission's in-house think-tank said the CAP had encouraged the growth of large-scale industrial farms and called for payments to support more environmentally friendly ends.

EU agriculture chief Phil Hogan said recently he would like to see small farmers benefitting more from the CAP, while France wants a larger pot for future market crises.

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Mr Le Foll announced this week that France is to match EU emergency funding to dairy farmers to encourage them to reduce milk production.

Irish Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, who attended the Chambord conference, said that food has to be produced in a greener way.

"As well as helping to mitigate the impact of increased global market volatility on farmers' incomes, particularly in a post-Brexit scenario, the strengths of the CAP in terms of its contribution to EU jobs and growth, and to the achievement of societal objectives, must be further built upon," Mr Creed said in a statement after the conference.

"A particular challenge for the agriculture sector will be to increase food production in an environmentally sustainable way, and the CAP will play a central role in the achievement of this objective," Mr Creed added.

Current CAP funding is assured until 2020, under the EU's long-term budget, which is being reviewed this autumn.

Oriel salts get eu protection

Sea salts harvested in Oriel, Co Louth, will now be protected under EU rules.

The addition of two products from Oriel — salts and minerals — brings to 10 the number of Irish products on the EU list, which provides brand protection for traditional and locally produced foods.

‘Oriel Sea Salt’ is harvested from the bay of Port Oriel and is naturally crystal white, so it does not need to be washed or rinsed.

‘Oriel Sea Minerals’ are concentrated sea salts in liquid form that can be used as a health supplement.

“This emphasis on quality recognition is entirely consistent with national policy for the development of the food sector and builds on Ireland’s already strong international reputation as a producer of world class food,” said Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

Applications for protected status for Sneem black pudding and Wexford blackcurrants have been lodged with the EU and are awaiting approval.

War of words over TTIP talks

EU-US relations took a double hit this week as Apple was slapped with a €13bn tax bill and a war of words broke out over a pending EU-US trade deal.

Ministers from France and Germany called for a halt to talks on the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), saying it was dead in the water.

The Irish government has consistently supported TTIP as a way to boost agri-food exports, and a recent EU study said Ireland stood to gain the most in the EU from it - an extra 1.4pc a year in GDP, along with wage rises for all workers.

But critics are worried it will lead to a lowering of EU food safety, environmental and labour standards, and allow companies to hold governments to ransom via private investor courts.

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