Farm Ireland

Thursday 19 April 2018

Tension in Brussels as officials disagree

Growing pressure on positioning of disadvantaged area payments

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Tension is mounting in Brussels ahead of the Commission's unveiling of its CAP reform paper on Thursday.

Senior advisers to all the commissioners met for hours last Friday in a heated meeting that overran its scheduled time.

It is believed that negotiations on the final wording of the paper broke down between officials from the agricultural and environmental divisions.

The difficulties are understood to have centred on a push for further "greening" of the measures that would govern the payment of farm subsidies.

However, it is believed the final document will closely mirror the draft paper that was leaked some weeks ago.

Sources within the Commission say that the three options will not be as starkly different as they were when initially set out in the draft paper.

In addition, "minor changes", especially on the treatment of small farmers, are being considered.

The first of the three options outlined last month was billed as an "enhanced status quo". The second sought "more targeted, balanced, and sustainable support". The last option suggested abolishing all "market and income supports".

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The second option, which would involve a redistribution of funds and a "greening" of payment requirements, is widely accepted to be the most likely scenario.

One of the biggest fears for Irish farmers is the strong suggestion that Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) would be moved from Pillar II to Pillar I of CAP.

This would see the DAS payments moved from rural development into market support.

It is unlikely that the budget for Pillar I will be increased to take account of the extra demand that the DAS would put on it.

As a result, the overall funding available to farmers could be significantly reduced. Over €220m was paid out to farmers in the DAS last year.

Irish representatives working in Brussels say that the continuing slide in Ireland's financial situation has only served to complicate Ireland's already delicate negotiating stance within the EU.

"There is not a good feeling towards us at the moment," one Irish official remarked bluntly.

Irish Independent