Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

It's do-or-die time in dash for CAP deal

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

It is horse-trading time in Europe. The final dash for the line in the CAP negotiations is well and truly under way as the parties look to iron out the final areas of contention.

The general consensus is that a deal will be done. There is too much political capital invested by the main players in the process.

For Commissioner Ciolos, securing an agreement on CAP would be the crowning achievement of his term in office and for three years of hard work.

Similarly for Minister Coveney, this week's negotiations are the culmination of not only six months, but 18 months of effort.

There is also a realisation that – in Northern Ireland speak – a window of opportunity for a CAP deal exists at the moment but this window will shut pretty firmly should the talks falter.

If the parties fail to reach agreement this week, then it could be 2015 before the reform process gets back on track.

Any fresh round of negotiations is unlikely to happen before Germany goes to the polls for a general election in October. Meanwhile, next year could be lost because of European Parliament elections which are scheduled for early summer.

There is also a feeling that the same priority would not be afforded to a CAP deal by Lithuania's upcoming EU presidency, or indeed that of Greece, which is due to follow the Baltic state.

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In addition, human nature being what it is, Minister Coveney and his officials in the Department of Agriculture will be very reluctant to gift the plaudits for securing a CAP deal to any other Member State when all the heavy lifting had been done by the lads in Dublin.

On the talks themselves, the latest from Luxembourg as we went to press was that the minimum payment was likely to be set at 60pc of the national average.

When all the deductions for young farmers, the national reserve and emergency fund have been taken into account, this would deliver a minimum payment of around €140/ha.

However, whether this would be paid on all eligible lands still is not certain as a lower payment on hill ground and marginal land has been suggested in some quarters.

Indeed, a fair degree of national flexibility has been touted as a possible way of easing opposition to some of the more contentious aspects of the overall package.

Unfortunately, one of the proposed CAP measures which could be sacrificed to secure a deal is the commitment to increase supports for young farmers.

It is hard to argue with Macra's contention that CAP reform risks being seriously watered down if established vested interests get their way and prevail upon Minister Coveney, as chairman of the Council of Ministers, to dilute or drop any of the proposed young farmer supports.

Irish Independent