Farmers face green challenges to get future EU payments
EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has said Irish farmers will have to do more to protect the environment to qualify for renewed farm payments.
The full text of plans to reform the EU Common Agricultural Policy will be published shortly. But Mr Hogan has confirmed that they will definitely contain an obligation on farmers to do more on protecting the environment, reducing pollution risks from fertilisers and also reducing carbon emissions.
The future of EU farm and regional funds will become clearer this Wednesday when the EU Commission publishes a budget blueprint for the years 2020-2027.
A €12bn fund shortfall due to Britain leaving the EU will be compounded by new demands to spend more on security provisions, including anti-terrorism co-operation and curbing cyber crime as well as migration funding.
Mr Hogan said the basic philosophy behind the CAP was that farmers should not be getting grant aid without doing something in return.
"Farmers realise, perhaps for the first time, that if they want European taxpayers' money and if they want their budget protected, they have to do that little bit more."
Mr Hogan said he would not speculate on the details until his draft plan is published next month. But he said there must be a greater link between EU farm and environment policies and farmers must be more conscious of the impact of their work on soil, water, air and climate.
The EU Commissioner also noted Ireland was currently planting 5,500 hectares of forestry per year. "That is low against a target of 10,000 hectares per annum that was in the rural development programme."
Mr Hogan said that improved forestry planting rates would help Ireland meet its carbon reduction targets through credit for "carbon sequestration".
He said he is preparing to defend EU farm funding under the changed budgetary regime, arguing that the Common Agricultural Policy, in place since 1962, was still the EU's most successful policy.
The current farm regime expires in 2020 and negotiations will begin on a replacement.
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