EU flexibility necessary for Irish farming

Flexibility regarding Member States’ allocations is necessary for sustainability of Irish farming

The EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner, Mr Dacian Ciolos met with the Oireachtas Committee for Communications, Natural Resources & Agriculture yesterday. While welcoming the visit and following the Commissioner’s address to the Committee about CAP reform proposals, there is a valid concern that some of the conditions, as currently proposed, will stifle Ireland’s potential to produce food in line with the objectives of the CAP.

When I met with Commissioner Ciolos I commended him for his work in ensuring the continuation the EU agriculture budget in a time of severe cutbacks and also raised a number of important points of concern in relation to CAP reform. I impressed upon him the need for flexibility regarding national CAP allocations which are of great importance to the future of sustainable Irish farming, the development of the agri-food business and agri-energy potential in Ireland.
The Commissioner confirmed that the negotiations are still being conducted on the 2014 reference year and the particular problems it posed for the Irish farm system. On the issue of flexibility of Member States on the distribution of funds, the Commissioner was non-committal.

The Commissioner defended his proposals on more greening measures on the basis that they are simple to implement. Regarding the sugar quota, Commissioner Ciolos is supportive of proposals to end sugar quotas in 2015 which would indicate that the industry would be free to restart and develop the ethanol sector for bioenergy. On the subject of milk quotas, Commissioner Ciolos confirmed that these are the responsibility of the Council of Ministers.

During our discussion, Commissioner Ciolos, made the very relevant point that in order to secure the budget for Agriculture across 27 EU nations, he had to justify it on the basis of security of European food production in a sustainable way with particular emphasis on supporting rural communities. I emphasised that these issues were important for Ireland, which is in a position to add to the food production potential of Europe under the new measures proposed by the CAP reforms.

The all-party Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture will continue to make every effort to ensure the best outcome of the CAP reform negotiations for Ireland and the EU. Given the likely possibility that Ireland will have the job of finalising the Common Agriculture Policy Reform negotiations across 27 countries in 2013 during the Irish presidency, it is vital that Irish interests are safeguarded now in the debates leading up to the final meetings. Following his two-day visit to Ireland, I am certain that Commissioner Ciolos is very much aware of the particular issues of concern to Ireland.