Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, welcomed European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Ciolos, to Dublin last week, and impressed upon the Commissioner the key CAP reform priorities for Ireland following the publication last October by the Commissioner of his legislative proposals for the period 2014 to 2020. Speaking after a meeting with the Commissioner, the Minister said:
“The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will set the policy framework for Irish and EU agriculture, so it is important that we get it right. I have told Commissioner Ciolos today that the first priority from an Irish perspective is to secure the maximum possible funding from the EU budget negotiations in order to provide for a strong and well-resourced CAP.
“The second priority is to ensure that Ireland’s funding for both direct payments and rural development is maintained at current levels. In addition, we must provide the maximum possible flexibility for Member States to implement the payment models and transitional arrangements that best suit their farming conditions.”
From a strategic viewpoint, the Minister emphasised the commitment of both Ireland and the Commission to sustainable intensification of production, responsible environmental stewardship and the maintenance of a vibrant rural economy. In this context it is, for example, important to ensure that rural development policy strongly supports competitiveness and sustainability in agriculture, in accordance with Ireland’s Food Harvest 2020 ambitions.
The Minister said he is happy to work positively with the Commission in progressing this agenda, and he stressed the importance of ensuring that the CAP reform process does not create any obstacles in this regard:
“Although it is still early days, I made the Commissioner aware of some initial concerns. These include the fact that, while the Commission’s overall funding proposals under the Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2014 to 2020 represent a reasonable starting point, there remains significant pressure for further cuts to the CAP budget.
“This pressure must be resisted. As regards the division of funding between Member States, while the proposals for the redistribution of direct payments are broadly satisfactory, I expressed concern about the method proposed for the allocation of rural development funds. On funding within Member States, I voiced my strong reservations about the proposal to move to flat national or regional rates, which would cause large transfers in Ireland from the more productive farms to more marginal and less productive land.”
In calling for greater flexibility for Member States to implement payment models appropriate to their own farming systems, Minister Coveney said the same principle could be applied to the Commission’s proposals for ‘greening’ of the CAP, which he felt were excessively bureaucratic. Instead, particular measures could be applied by Member States in accordance with their conditions and needs. Alternatively, enhanced cross compliance and GAEC (Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition) provisions could be considered. “I believe we should look at all options to enhance our support for sustainable agriculture, but without introducing complex new bureaucracy. In fact, simplification should be a key objective for this round of CAP reform.”
Concluding, the Minister emphasised that this is the start of what will be a lengthy process of negotiation:
“The CAP reform proposals from the Commission contain many positive elements and interesting ideas. There are, however, many details still to be finalised, and many important issues remain to be resolved. My focus at all times will be on getting the best possible outcome for Ireland.
“That has very much been the focus of my discussions today with Commissioner Ciolos, and the key priorities that I have outlined will continue to underpin my approach to the negotiations over the coming months.”