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An Important Step Towards a CAP Fit for the Future

Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine


 The CAP reform agreement achieved in the Council of Agriculture Ministers last week was a major step towards a final decision on this subject. It has been widely recognised as a major achievement for the Irish presidency - brokering a deal between 27 Member States on such a complex and important issue is no easy task.

However it is not the end of the road. A great deal of work remains to be done before we know for certain the detailed terms of the CAP for 2014 to 2020.

With the Council agreement in place, it is now possible to move to the final phase of negotiations between the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission. I and my staff will have the job of representing the Council of Ministers in those negotiations, and we are committed to doing everything we can to finalise them by the end of the Irish Presidency on 30 June.

To help everyone understand what was agreed last week, we have set out the details in the document below. However it is important to be clear that this is the Council position, not the final agreement. Inevitably the final deal will be based on compromises between the positions of the three institutions.

There has been much debate in Ireland on a number of key issues and none more so than on the distribution between farmers of the single farm payment. I am very pleased that the proposal originally made by Ireland was included in the agreement this week. We have worked very hard over the past year to convince others that this is the way to go, and it is gratifying to see it now adopted as the position of the 27 Member States. Our model gives Member States a good deal of flexibility on the degree to which farm payments should move towards the national average rate per hectare. We have additionally included a front-loaded redistributive payment as an optional add-on and likewise the possibility to set maximum and/or minimum rates per hectare.

I believe that it is important to move away from out of date historic references towards a fairer distribution of funds between farmers. But at the same time I want to ensure that those with higher than average payments do not see their payments cut to an unreasonable extent. I am glad to say that the deal agreed on Tuesday, if it were confirmed in the final agreement, would allow Ireland the flexibility to structure a solution that would be fair and reasonable for all Irish farmers.

Another issue on which there has been much comment is the reference year for payment entitlements under the new system. We got agreement that Member States could choose 2012, 2013 or 2014 as the reference year. I have repeatedly warned those involved in renting land that they should not base their decisions on an effort to maximise their payment position under the Commission proposals. Renting land is best done with longer term farm development in mind and under medium term leases, for which we have provided generous tax incentives.

In relation to the “greening” of the single farm payment, we agreed a revised set of conditions based on the Commission proposal but adapted to make them more practical to operate in a real farming situation. We also got agreement that the payment could be based on 30% of a farmer's payment rather than on a flat rate per hectare.  I hope that at the end of these negotiations we can agree a set of measures that genuinely improve the environmental sustainability of farming, but do not hold back productivity improvements or production increases on our farms. To meet the growing global demand for food, we must intensify agricultural production, but we must do so in a way that respects nature and protects and enhances our soil and water resources. This is one of the great challenges of our time and the CAP must change to meet that challenge.

There is much else in the deal agreed last week and these points are outlined in the document below. It covers payments to young farmers, market management measures, rural development and a complex array of other issues.

I believe that Irish farmers will recognise the value of the work that has been done to date to ensure that the new CAP will underpin and support our Food Harvest 2020 strategy. I am very ambitious for the future of Irish and European farming, and I believe it is essential that we have a CAP that is fit for purpose for the period to 2020 at least.  That will certainly be the guiding light for the Irish presidency as we continue our work to next June.

Date Released: 28 March 2013