'Transitional' CAP will be needed to bridge Brexit and budget crux

MEPs warn that time is running out on CAP reform being ready for 2020

Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy
Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A transitional CAP programme will be necessary for 2020-21 because the new regime will not be agreed in time to be launched next year.

This was the view of a number of MEPs who addressed an INHFA meeting on CAP reform in Letterkenny on Friday evening.

Both Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness and Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy told the meeting that agreeing a CAP package by 2020 was not going to happen and that transitional arrangements would have to be introduced in the interim.

Continuing battles over Brexit and the wider EU and CAP budgets were cited as the primary reasons for the delays in the CAP reform process.

However, independent MEP Ming Flanagan and Fianna Fáil's Charlie McConalogue rejected suggestions that Brexit was to blame for efforts to cut CAP spending.

Mr Flanagan said a reluctance among the wealthier member states to increase their GDI contribution from 1pc to 1.3pc was the main reason the CAP budget was under pressure.

The west of Ireland MEP said a fairer allocation of CAP resources was also needed, and he bemoaned the reluctance of Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to support a straight capping of direct payments to €60,000 per applicant.

Commissioner Hogan's proposals will allow recipients with direct payments in excess of €60,000 to offset labour costs against CAP cuts.

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Critics of Mr Hogan's plan have argued that the move will render the capping proposals meaningless.

Convergence

However, Ms McGuinness pointed out that convergence was acting to level payments across the farm sector and that this process would be continued in the next CAP programme.

Amid suggestions that the Commission's environmental arm will have a major input into the next CAP, local Independent TD Thomas Pringle said climate change measures should not be viewed in a completely negative light and that farmers needed to embrace the opportunities that it presented.

In the presentation to the 500-strong attendance, the INHFA again called for the flattening of Pillar 1 payments which would bring all farmers to €250/ha, as well as further increases in the ANC to bring the maximum payment up to €6,000, an improved agri-environmental payment in line with previous REPS payments, a doubling of the sheep welfare payment, and a suckler cow welfare scheme.

INHFA president Colm O'Donnell said the payment increases were justified given the "enormous public good that farmers provide".

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