Monday, October 4, 2010

Farmers get ready for Cap policy changes

IRISH FARMERS are bracing themselves for the changes in the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap)signalled by the EU's Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos during his recent visit here.
While the commissioner made it clear he would fight for as much money as possible from the EU budget for agriculture, how that money would be distributed would be a matter for negotiation.

Direct payments, which are worth more than €1.5 billion a year to Ireland's farmers, were secure and the principle was not under discussion, he promised.

But he warned the ways payments were distributed would be adjusted, as the current system showed considerable differences in the rates of direct aid farmers get from one country to another

"This is not justifiable for the period after 2013. Direct payments must be more equitably distributed among member states, regions and types of agriculture," he said. The system on which Irish direct payments were based here, farm output in the first three years of this century, would be difficult to justify 12 years on, he said.

But he also ruled out the possibility of bringing in a flat rate payment on the area of land owned by farmers, and said he did not think this was a good instrument because it would not address the diversity of farming in Europe.

He outlined the three priorities of the Cap as: maintaining food production; sustainable management of natural resources; and the maintenance of the social fabric and landscape of rural areas.

The commissioner, who will publish a white paper on the reform package on November 17th, said the strategic importance of agriculture would increase significantly in the future.

In the new Cap, he said, there would have to be new tools to address the extreme volatility of prices and farm incomes, and there was also a need to make progress on the question of distribution of bargaining power within the food chain. He said climate change was a huge challenge and farmers who could bring answers to this challenge needed support.

Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith, who had invited the commissioner here, said he had met the Taoiseach earlier in the day, where the importance of having a properly resourced Cap in the future was discussed.

He called on the commissioner to allow flexibility regarding the distribution of funds in member states because the agro-ecological and social conditions of farming varied hugely with the union.

Mr Ciolos, who addressed the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, and representatives of agri-food industry and farm bodies, also visited a Co Kildare farm.

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