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Ó Cuív, Éamon

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Common Agricultural Policy Reform: Statements

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Common Agricultural Policy Reform: Statements

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Snippet Contents:

I thank the Minister for coming to the House in advance of next week's Council of Ministers. We are engaged in a slow process and the options will narrow until agreement is reached at European level. Even after we reach agreement, however, we will still have to make a number of national choices. We must retain our focus on what we want to achieve in the end game. It is vital that we give a higher priority than is given in popular discourse to price stability and guaranteeing primary producers will receive a fair share of the price paid by consumers. If farming is not profitable even on the best of land, there is no inducement to produce more. The Food Harvest 2020 programme which we prepared in government should underlie our actions. The programme aimed to expand Irish agriculture to produce the maximum possible product from the land.
I have heard statements in this debate which would be considered ridiculous in any other forum. It is suggested that somehow there is an incentive to produce if someone has a fixed payment, notwithstanding the fact that the more he or she produces, the less money he or she will make. In other words, having taken the fixed income, the enterprises loses money when it produces more. To expect anybody or any country to expand production dramatically in such a situation is Alice in Wonderland talk. We have to fight to get recognition from the European Union that if farming is not profitable now that it has been decoupled, there is no incentive to produce more. If we accept that principle, a second point becomes obvious. The better the land and the more efficient the farmer, the better his or her capacity to make profits from the market. If the average farmer can make a profit by increasing production, which will be necessary if we want to achieve our targets, it is fair to say the farmer with the best land has an even better opportunity because of economies of scale. We must, therefore, get it into our minds that the payments are decoupled.
From a farmer's point of view, pillar I is only part of the equation. When farmers received information on their farm payments from the Department at the end of the year, they always looked at the bottom line. For 100% of the farmers in the CAP covered industries, this meant the single payment; for 75% of farmers, it meant the single payment and the disadvantaged area payments, and for approximately 33%, depending on REPS and AEOS cycles, it meant the single payment, the disadvantaged area payment and an agri-environmental payment. We have to recognise that, for various reasons the Minister could not reverse, there have been significant decreases for the 75% of farmers receiving the disadvantaged area payment.