EU Agriculture Commissioner To Visit

Visit of EU Agriculture Commissioner ideal opportunity to highlight CAP

Flexibility must be shown for needs of individual member states

The visit of European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Ciolos, to Dublin today (Wednesday) should be used to highlight the upcoming CAP reform negotiations. The Commission needs to be flexibile regarding individual Member States when it comes to implementing CAP.

Commissioner Ciolos’ visit to Ireland comes at a crucial time with regard to CAP. One of the objectives of the Danish Presidency of the EU, which has just begun, is to make progress on CAP reform. The Commissioner’s visit to Ireland brings the opportunity to bring the matter of CAP negotiations into sharper focus. At this crucial juncture we should take advantage of the visit to make a case for securing the maximum return for Ireland. It is important to impress upon the Commissioner the need for flexibility in allocations for individual Member States when it comes to CAP to ensure that payment models suit the needs of farming conditions in each country.

I am glad that the agricultural sector is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Agriculture is one of the shining lights in the economy and needs all the encouragement it can get to continue to provide jobs and stimulate the economy. There are 120,000 family farms in Ireland, one in eight people employed in Ireland work in the Agri-Food sector and farm incomes are estimated to have increased by 24% in real terms in 2010. Agri-Food is also one of the main drivers of our hugely successful export sector.

Progress will hopefully be made on CAP during the Danish Presidency, and the matter will then be taken up by Council of Ministers and then the European Parliament. It is envisaged that the new CAP regime will be concluded during the Irish Presidency of the EU during the first half of 2013. The Commission has been negotiating CAP since mid-2011 and it is believed that the final arrangements for the new CAP are unlikely to be agreed until late 2012. The aim is for a new CAP to be in place by 2014. As such, we are currently at a vital stage of the negotiations in terms of arguing a strong position for Ireland.

When it comes to implementing agriculture policy in member states, it is important to remember that one size does not fit all. For example, it is difficult to see how the Commission’s Greening’ proposals would work. Ireland has had 20 years of environmental schemes including various REPS and AEOS schemes and has acquired a huge amount of experience and knowledge over this time, more experience in fact than many other member states. This must be highlighted during any discussions with the Commissioner.