Crunch CAP talks as farmers warn of e250m loss
CRUNCH talks will open in Brussels today on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Some farmers here are warning that the current reform proposals will cost them €250m as it could halve their annual payments.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney will chair the council meeting at which farm ministers from all 27 member states will attempt to hammer out a deal over the next two days.
Mr Coveney said he was hoping to agree a comprehensive council position on reforms of the CAP, which is worth €1.5bn a year to Irish farmers and around €50bn a year across Europe.
"Member states hare arrived at a very important point on the road to successful reform of the CAP," Mr Coveney said.
Solutions need to be found on the contentious issues of how payments are shared out within member states and the linking of payments to environmental practices, Mr Coveney added.
An upper ceiling on payments, to a maximum of €300,000, is also expected to be divisive as Germany is opposed to this because of its high number of large former collective farms.
The Irish Farmers' Association said Mr Coveney must secure a deal that worked for Ireland and reject the most negative proposals of EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos.
IFA president John Bryan warned against introducing a minimum payment that would redistribute money from productive farmers to inactive ones producing little.
"This is unfair and unacceptable. IFA is insisting that monies available for redistribution are targeted at active farmers with low payments, using objective criteria such as stocking rates and the option of coupling," he said.
If agreement is reached at the talks it will set the stage for a final package to be negotiated with the European Parliament and Commission before the end of Ireland's EU presidency in June.
Environmental groups have backed the reform proposals saying more of the huge sums in CAP payments should be redistributed to poorer farmers.
Friends of the Irish Environment has said channelling more money to farmers in disadvantaged areas would boost rural communities instead of agribusiness and ultra-large farmers.