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Other Questions - Common Agricultural Policy

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 755 No. 1

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 8.  Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath  asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  his views that progress was made on the key issue for Irish farmers in the common agriculture policy post 2013 discussions with Commissioner Ciolos during his recent visit; if so, in what areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7252/12]

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney When I saw this question had been tabled in the name of Deputy Michael McGrath, I thought he had become interested in agriculture. No such luck, however,

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan The flood lands of the Minister’s territory in Cork South-Central might be invaded if that were the case.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Exactly. I am glad the question was tabled because we had a very useful visit from Commissioner Ciolos a number of weeks ago. Deputies Michael Moynihan and Michael Colreavy made a number of extremely relevant points to the Commissioner during the Joint Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture’s meeting with him. I had an opportunity to spend approximately three hours with the Commissioner during which time we discussed various matters, both on and off the record. I took the opportunity to outline to him Ireland’s main concerns about this matter, the first of which is the need to ensure the budget proposed by the Commission for the CAP should remain intact as we move towards making a decision on the multi-annual financial framework, that is, the EU budget. There are still countries which would like the CAP budget to be cut significantly. We must ensure, at a senior Government level, that this does not happen.

Ireland also has concerns on the reference year issue. Many farmers are also concerned about this matter which is having an impact on the land rental market, in particular. It will continue to have such an impact between now and 2014 if clarity is not forthcoming. The Commissioner now understands this issue, but he continues to maintain many other countries do not appear to have a difficulty with it. He wants to be as concise as possible in determining a reference year. We are going to work together to try to arrive at a solution which will give certainty to the rental market before the end of the year.

[92]I outlined to the Commissioner our concerns about greening. There should not be a separate greening payment. We should build on the cross-compliance structures already in place rather than introducing an entirely new layer of bureaucracy, form-filling and inspections in respect of a separate top-up payment. However, the Commissioner is wedded to the idea of introducing a separate greening payment and that was the mechanism he used to obtain agreement from the Commission in maintaining the budget for the CAP. He obtained that agreement by stating direct payments would effectively be cut by 30% and that a 30% top-up payment directly related to the greening of the CAP would be provided.

The distribution of single farm or direct payments within Ireland is the key issue for us. We discussed this matter in the context of an earlier question. We need to achieve a result in this matter because the last thing we want is for the Irish Presidency to be obliged to focus on significant problems this country might have with the CAP proposals rather than on trying to achieve consensus among member states. We will work intensively with the Commission to try to arrive at a compromise solution which will assist us in achieving our goals.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan The negotiations that will take place between now and this time next year in finalising the CAP deal will determine a great deal in the context of the future of agriculture in this country. For Ireland, a wide variety of issues must be resolved, not to mention those which must be dealt with in the context of the CAP. The Minister understands quite well the reference date has already caused distortion in the rental market. I am encouraged by the comments he made on having something in place by the end of the year on the rental markets, but farmers have jumped ahead and I hope they are not making management decisions that will be detrimental to them. I encourage the Minister to be forthright and upfront with the main stakeholders on whatever proposal the Department will put in place. From what I understand and hear at the farm gate, the use of 2014 as the reference year is having a serious impact.

With regard to greening, the less bureaucracy we have the better because for far too long complaints have been made about the amount of bureaucracy which has built up around the single farm payment and European moneys. We must make a concerted effort to minimise bureaucracy in so far as possible. Emerging markets are coming into play and there is an opportunity for farmers to farm rather than complying with regulation after regulation.

I do not think the use of 2011 as a reference year is making any difference and I encourage the Minister to ensure a proposal is brought forward with regard to 2014. We should ensure the minimum amount of bureaucracy is in place after these CAP negotiations.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney We are at one on this issue but it is important to state the big issue for us is the redistribution of direct payments. We also require clarity on rural development funds. We still do not know how this funding will be distributed between the member states. Let us be clear that 2014 issue needs to be resolved but it is not the big issue. The big issue for us is to ensure the €1.3 billion of direct payments that come to Ireland will be distributed among our 130,000 farmers to the maximum effect possible in terms of building, expanding and growing our industry and supporting farm families. This is the key issue and the Commissioner understands this. Of the three hours I spent with him, I spent two hours speaking about this issue.

The other issues are very important and we will try to address them. I do not want to pretend any of these issues will be easily resolved because they will not. Any solution we find must be acceptable to a majority of the 26 other member states which will also be impacted by the changes we may propose in terms of flexibility.

[93]Having said all of this, it is possible to steer our way through what will be a difficult negotiation process. As long as we use the opportunities that exist, especially as Ireland approaches its Presidency during which the deal is likely to be finalised, Irish interests can be protected.

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