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Independent.ie

Saturday 20 October 2018

Greening rules to be 'improved' in future - Ciolos

Darragh McCullough questions EU Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Ciolos on CAP reform and TTIP

EU Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Ciolos
EU Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Ciolos
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

AS he approaches the end of his five year term as the EU's Commissioner for Agriculture, Dacian Ciolos reflects on the big issues that he continues to deal with, not least the soon to be concluded reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

While the diminutive Romanian was cautious about revealing any disappointments that he may be harbouring about the end result, he was keen to highlight how he sees the reforms benefitting European agriculture over the next five years.

CAP reform:

"For the taxpayers and policy-makers outside of the sector, they are mostly interested in the size of the budget or how much the reforms would promote biodiversity. But for me, I am happiest about the crisis management element of the reforms. It provides a package that can intervene quickly in difficult situations.

"I'm also really pleased that we now have a clearer direction on payments that has allowed us to keep direct payments going to farmers, while at the same time renouncing the historical element.

"The payments are now more closely linked with good agricultural practice and I expect that these measures will be improved upon even further in the future.

"Greening is not just about keeping consumers happy but also improving the competitiveness of farmers.

"For example, biodiversity helps reduce pest burdens on crops, which in turn will benefit farmers.

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"The objective was not to create a very rigid system and I think we achieved that.

"I'm also very happy with the young farmer initiative, which I think will become more pan-European over time.

"The linking of more funds to innovation is also a very important development. This will be especially important in western EU countries where there is less potential for increased output through the existing systems of production.

"In the newer member states in the east, such as Romania, there is still a need for funding to develop the potential.

"Obviously there are things that I'm disappointed about in the reform process, but these are my personal feelings and I am only one piece in the democratic process.

"If farmers aren't convinced about the new measures being imposed on them, it would be very difficult to get results.

"But the feedback that I get is that farmers are more or less satisfied with the outcomes.

"Farmers were initially totally against the decoupling of payments in the last reforms.

"But they clearly moved to view this as a positive over time, and I believe that they will come to view greening in the same way.

"I believe that greening will actually give farmers the instruments to be able to adapt in the future, rather than just a rule.

"The reforms also got quite a lot of support in the European Parliament in the end, and consumers have also expressed an increased appreciation about how the CAP works in the latest Eurobarometer report."

EU-US trade negotiations (TTIP)

"The EU has a series of defensive and offensive interests in this process. Cheese, biofuels and rice would be three sectors that we'll be defensive.

"The Single Payment System that we have developed in Europe must also be allowed stand and not be used as a way to block access for EU beef onto the US market. We also have no intention of negotiating on GMO's or hormone beef.

"In relation to offensive interests, I think there should be good opportunities for our PGI products (that have special geographical status such as Parmesan cheese or the Waterford Blah).

"During the first exchange of offers aimed at breaking down existing tariffs, Commission negotiators said that they were not happy with the level of ambition shown by US negotiators. They said that what the US officials had privately indicated would be on offer before the start of the talks did not materialise when the public offerings emerged.

"But we should not ignore the other markets such as Russia, South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

"We need to have a greater presence in these places and provoke debate on the international agricultural stage."

Russian ban on EU pigmeat

Ireland exported 20,165t of pigmeat to Russia with a value €55m last year in the wake of an outbreak of African swine fever in pigs.

This was a 33pc increase on 2012:

"Of course I'm worried about this situation. Our assessment is that it is not a serious enough situation to warrant the Russian ban, especially given that there has been no cases of this disease in any commercial pig farm in the whole of the EU.

"It could be a purely political move (on the behalf the Russians) because it certainly isn't based on WTO rules.

"If it persists and we cannot begin some bilateral dialogue we will consider going to the WTO to appeal the move."

Indo Farming