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Coveney Says it is Decision Time on CAP

Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, today urged colleagues in all three EU institutions to get on with the task of CAP reform. "The new Financial Framework for the EU budget for 2014 to 2020 imposes a natural deadline for decisions on further reform. If we are to have the reformed CAP in place to coincide with the new EU budget period, the time is fast approaching for decisions" the Minister said. The Minister added that, as an incoming Presidency of the EU in January 2013, Ireland was committed to playing an active and constructive role in securing a deal.

The Minister was speaking during a session on 'Key Issues and Challenges for the CAP Reform' at the 2012 Food Forum for Agriculture Conference in Brussels, which was also addressed by EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Ciolos and the Chairman of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, Paolo de Castro. The Minister stressed the important contribution that the agri-food sector can make to the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy, centred on the achievement of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth: "The reform of the CAP must be consistent with this strategy and the three objectives in the Commission's proposals - of preserving food production potential, sustainably managing natural resources and maintaining viable rural areas - are a good starting point. Indeed, these objectives mirror closely the Irish priorities for the CAP that I have been highlighting in recent months, which are the sustainable intensification of food production, responsible stewardship of the environment and the maintenance of a vibrant rural economy". 

The Minister highlighted the key challenges from the perspective of a future Presidency. The first of these is to secure a strong and well-resourced CAP: "The EU food and drinks sector is the largest manufacturing sector in the EU, and while decisions on the amount of funding will not be made by Agriculture Ministers, it is important that we make our voices heard and ensure that the importance of a strong CAP for European recovery is recognised". The next challenge is to find an acceptable mechanism for the distribution of Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 CAP funds between Member States. The Minister acknowledged the sensitivity of this issue and urged colleagues to take a political and pragmatic approach. "We should acknowledge the political reality and address the matter politically and pragmatically in the manner proposed by the Commission for direct payments in pillar 1, by using the pragmatic distribution approach for the two pillars combined".

Another key challenge is the distribution of funding within Member States. While agreeing that direct payments could not continue to be based on historical production, the Minister reiterated previously voiced concerns that the Commission's proposal to move towards a flat-rate payment per hectare by 2019 would cause very significant transfers from the most productive farms to more marginal and less productive land. Expressing doubts about the ability, in any event, of a 'one size fits all' approach to deliver on the CAP's overall objectives, the Minister argued again for the maximum possible flexibility to be given to Member States to design payment models suited to their own farming conditions: "The approximation approach, by which all payments could gradually move towards the average, and a variation of which the Commission itself has adopted in the distribution of funds between Member States, is one alternative that I believe should be considered. Under this approach, it would be possible to limit the losses suffered by those whose payments would have to be reduced in order to allow those in receipt of the lowest level of payments to move closer to the average". The Minister also took the opportunity to highlight difficulties associated with the Commission's proposal for further greening of the CAP. Although supportive of the Commission's ambitions, and citing their consistency with Ireland's Food Harvest 2020 strategy, the Minister pointed to the additional administrative burden inherent in what would be an additional scheme to the Single Payment Scheme, as well as the accelerating effect it would have on the proposed move to a flat rate payment system. There are also practical difficulties with the three greening criteria outlined in the proposals: "I believe we have some work ahead of us to convert the admirable ambitions of the Commission into a series of simple, practical and effective measures that achieve real improvements to the sustainability of our agriculture and contribute positively to the environment and to our climate change agenda. We are looking at a number of options that include expansion of the current cross-compliance requirements or establishing a menu of environmentally beneficial measures that Member States could choose from according to their particular needs".

Concluding, the Minister stressed Ireland's commitment to making every effort possible during its Presidency next year to secure an agreement on CAP reform that will underpin a flourishing European agri-food sector in the years ahead.

Date Released: 27 March 2012