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Discussions Intensify on New CAP says Smith

The Common Agricultural Policy will undergo significant change from 2013, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith. He called on all relevant Irish interests to engage actively and realistically in the discussions on the new CAP, which will intensify in 2010. "Discussions on the new CAP are at a very early stage, but it is already clear that there will be change, and that the outcome of the upcoming negotiations on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013 will be pivotal in determining the future prospects for the development of Irish agriculture up to 2020" he said.

Minister Smith made his comments after an intensive series of bilateral meetings at official and political level over the last number of months with colleagues from the EU Commission and other Member States. The Minister said that while the formal communication from the EU Commission was not expected until the middle of next year, the current informal phase of negotiations was extremely important.  "This is the time when ideas are exchanged and the main policy options are formulated", the Minister said.  "Ireland is deeply engaged in these discussions at all levels".

The Minister pointed to the new and enhanced role to be played in the negotiations by the European Parliament with the introduction of co-decision with the Council of Ministers in this area. He welcomed the strong engagement of Irish MEPs in this process. "Obviously the full participation by the European Parliament in this round of CAP reform is a new element, and it is not yet fully clear how it will impact on the negotiations. However it is a very welcome development in that it will open up the process more and hopefully improve public understanding of and participation in the process".

The Minister also welcomed the major interest displayed in the process by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and undertook to facilitate the Committee's input. 

He also referred to the consultation exercise that he undertook in 2009 to garner the views of Irish interest groups on the shape of the CAP for the future. "I would now like all of the stakeholders to engage collectively with their opposite numbers in the EU to ensure there is a unified message from Ireland that we want a strong and well-resourced CAP after 2013", the Minister said.  "I have been pressing this message with my Ministerial colleagues for some time and I was gratified with the support for my position at the meeting of the group of 22 Ministers in Paris earlier this month."

The Minister said there would be intense competition for funds from the EU budget in the coming period and we needed to ensure that agriculture, and particularly Irish agriculture, received an adequate allocation. 

The Minister repeated his view that the CAP should retain its current structure with two 'pillars': the single farm payments and market management measures in pillar 1, and the rural development schemes in pillar 2. "I believe we must retain a core element of income support for farmers through our pillar 1 measures such as the single farm payment" he said "and I will fight hard for this". However the Minister stressed that policies cannot remain static. "For example, there is huge pressure for changes to be made to the historic basis used to calculate single farm payments and I believe we owe it to ourselves to at least examine the alternatives." 

In relation to the rural development measures in 'pillar 2' of the CAP, the Minister drew attention to the revised Rural Development Programme (RDP) which has been submitted to the Commission. This revised Programme consists mainly of new targeted investment supports to promote competitive agriculture and an agri-environment measure aimed at delivering real, measurable environmental benefits which can be enjoyed by everyone in our society. "I believe that our revised RDP points the way forward for rural development, with its clear focus on competitiveness and sustainability. There has been much talk in the initial discussions about an increased emphasis on the delivery of public goods by farmers in return for payments. We should not shy away from this issue, but rather seek to shape this agenda in a way that suits Irish agriculture, as we are doing in our new RDP".

The Minister also said that he had taken the opportunity at the Council of EU Agriculture Ministers in December to push strongly for simplification of processes and procedures to be a key element of the reformed CAP. "I found a good measure of support for this view and it is a point that I will continue to press strongly as we all know that there is too much bureaucracy and complexity in the CAP at present. Everyone, and most of all farmers, wants to see a CAP that is much more straightforward to understand and implement."

Ultimately, the Minister said, we need a CAP that is based on the twin goals of competitiveness and sustainability, that is properly funded, and that is simple to justify, understand and operate.

Date Released: 30 December 2009