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Common Agricultural Policy

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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney)

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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney)

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Simon Coveney

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Snippet Contents:

One of my key concerns as regards the CAP reform proposals arises in relation to the distribution of direct payments within Member States. As the Deputy is aware, the Commission proposal is to gradually move towards a system of uniform per hectare payments, or flat rates, by 2019, in each Member State or region of a Member State. While I recognise that we cannot continue to base our payments on outdated historic production references, I nevertheless have major difficulties with the pace and extent of convergence contained in the Commission’s proposal.
Under a national flat rate system as proposed by the Commission, the impact on Irish farmers would be significant - around 76,000 would gain an average of 86% on their current payments, while around 57,000 would lose an average of 33%. These are average percentages, and some of the gains and losses would be far larger than this. This would have undesirable consequences at a time when Ireland is trying to encourage sustainable intensification in the agri-food sector, as we strive to achieve the objectives in the Food Harvest 2020 strategy.
I have accordingly been pressing for the maximum possible flexibility to be given to Member States to design payment models that suit their own farming conditions. I also want a more gradual, back-loaded transition process. The ‘approximation’ approach, by which all payments could gradually move towards, but not fully to, the average, is one alternative that I believe should be considered in this regard. The Commission’s “pragmatic” proposal for redistribution between Member States is, in effect, an approximation approach and provides a useful precedent. Modelling in my Department suggests that the application of this system to the distribution of funds between farmers in Ireland would lead to much smaller gains and losses to individual farmers than a flat rate system. However the precise level of transfers depends on the details of the methodology used.
I have been very active in seeking allies for this position and I have been making significant progress, particularly with a group of Member States with somewhat similar concerns. It should also be understood that a number of Member States have already adopted flat rate systems or are evolving towards them and have no difficulty with the idea of flat rate payments. However, I am confident that, following our efforts, there is recognition of the difficulties that the Commission proposal poses for some Member States, such as ourselves.