Sunday 19 November 2017

53,000 farmers to lose out after €74bn CAP deal is agreed

Aideen Sheehan Brussels

AROUND 53,000 Irish farmers will lose out – and another 60,000 will gain – after a deal on reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy was finally agreed in Brussels.

In total, €74m in farm payments could change hands in Ireland as a result of the reform.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney announced details of the overhaul following marathon talks between ministers from all 27 member states.

The overall amount of money that Ireland receives will not change at approximately €1.5bn, but the criteria governing its distribution will change.

The level of future CAP payments to individual farmers will be based on the number of hectares farmed. This will replace the current system linked to how much food they produced 10 years ago. But it raised concerns that farmers with lots of land, but who produce relatively little, would benefit disproportionately.

Announcing details, Mr Coveney said the agreement was a "very significant step forward for agreeing CAP reform".

Mr Coveney was charged with securing political agreement on the €50bn-a-year deal because of Ireland's current EU presidency.

However though this political agreement is a crucial step forward, the EU Commission Dacian Ciolos signalled it does not go far enough to make the CAP fairer or greener.

He said he will push for more radical changes in the final binding reform package set to be negotiated by Mr Coveney, the Commission and the Parliament between now and June.

Issues that proved particularly contentious in talks included how much farmers should be penalised if they failed to meet new environmental standards.

In the end, member states agreed sanctions of around 7pc of farmers' direct payments, but commission sources indicated they'd be looking for more.

Big sugar-producing countries also lobbied hard for an extension of quotas for their highly profitable crop until from 2015 to 2020, with a compromise agreement that will see quotas run until 2017 instead.

A group pushing to resume sugar production in Ireland welcomed the agreement to end sugar quotas after 2017.

Michael Hoey of Beet Ireland said that ending sugar quotas in 2017 meant a new processing plant could be built in time to take advantage of the opened-up market.

"This was just a dream a couple of years ago, but this decision brings us closer to realising it by 2017," he said.

Mr Coveney thanked countries for their help in reaching an agreement on a framework that will allow him attempt to negotiate a final deal with the European Parliament and Commission by June.

Irish Independent

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