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CAP Consultation Public Meetings 12 February 2018 Opening Remarks Speaking Points for Minister Creed

  • I would like to thank each and every one of you for making the effort to attend this evening’s meeting.
  • These meetings are very timely given the important stage of the debate, on the shape of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2020.
  • As the Irish economy recovers, there may be a tendency to think that Agriculture is diminishing in importance. Nothing could be further from the truth!.
  • Based on 2016 figures, the Agri Food sector employs more than 173,000 people in Ireland. That is  8.6% of total employment. In terms of GDP, the Irish Agri Food sector accounts for 7.6%.
  • Indeed, it is Ireland’s largest indigenous sector, contributing some €26 billon in turnover. It is vital to the survival of rural areas, where alternative employment opportunities may not readily exist.
  • The CAP plays a major role supporting this employment creating infrastructure.  Annual Pillar 1 payments of €1.2 billion provide vital income support and help to ensure that agricultural land is kept in good agricultural and environmental condition.
  • These are complemented by more than €300 million per annum in Pillar 2 payments, which support investments, knowledge transfer and the delivery of environmental public goods.  
  • And this is not just an Irish story. At European Union level, the policy :
    • guarantees food security for over 500 million European citizens;
    • maintains 10.8 million farm families  on 48% of European Union land;
    • It helps to ensure that rural areas that are home to 55% of EU citizens are economically viable, and are not abandoned;
    • It underpins employment for 44 million people within the wider food sector;
    • It delivers the standards of food safety and  animal health & welfare that EU citizens have come to expect;
    • It protects water quality, biodiversity and landscape and provides tools to help farmers to mitigate climate change.
  • So the CAP is of immense importance, not only for European Agriculture, but for the rural economy and society generally.
  • In many ways it is symbolic of all that is good about the European Union. However all stakeholders including my Department need to do more to better articulate the benefits of CAP for EU citizens.
  • This does not mean that we should be afraid to critically analyse the CAP, to face up to its deficiencies, and to improve it.  This is why we are here tonight and this is why we want your input.
  • The backdrop to this evening’s proceedings is the publication by the European Commission of its Communication on the future of the CAP, on 29 November 2017.
  • This document is aptly entitled “ The Future of Food and Farming”.  It is intended to frame the Commission’s thinking in advance of legislative proposals that will define the shape of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2020.
  • The communication touches on a number of critical themes.  These include farm incomes, innovation and technology adoption, competitiveness, risk management and the position of farmers in the supply chain. David Buckley from my Department will talk you through some of these issues shortly.
  • Before he does, I want to make specific reference to one of these themes. That is the contribution the CAP can make to the environment.
  • Farmers are custodians of the countryside. That’s a cliché, but it also happens to be true. Their actions have an impact on the environment and countryside we all share and many of us live in.
  • And the discussions on a future CAP also come against the backdrop of global concerns about biodiversity, water quality and international climate change commitments in the Paris Accord.
  • We have to take these things seriously, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because future public support across Europe for CAP funding, will depend on our being able to demonstrate to taxpayers that it provides public goods and represents value for money.
  • So when it comes to the environment, the communication is very clear –“The environmental ambition of the CAP must be increased”. A future CAP must have a major role to play in helping the farm sector to contribute to climate change mitigation and improved water quality and biodiversity.
  • However, if we expect farmers to deliver these kinds of public goods, then any new CAP must be configured in a way that encourages them to do this.
  • And we know that EU citizens agree with the proposition that farmers should be remunerated for the provision of public goods, because it was one of the very clear outcomes of the EU Commission’s own CAP consultation in 2017.
  • The key challenge for the CAP post-2020 will be to facilitate sustainable food production, to help to meet demand that is expected to increase by 70% by 2050, in order to meet the requirements of a growing global population. At the same time, and with equal determination, we must ensure that the CAP helps farmers to adopt environmentally friendly practices and technologies and climate change mitigation strategies.
  • Put simply, CAP must continue to assist farmers in producing food in a more sustainable manner.
  • Support for farm incomes will be a critical part of this picture. Without farmers, none of the food production or environmental benefits accrue. The Commission’s communication recognises this, and of course the critical need to support farm incomes is recognised in the Treaty provisions establishing the CAP.
  • So direct payments will continue to be a major feature in the CAP post 2020. And later this evening, Dr. Kevin Hanrahan of Teagasc will be explaining just how important they are.
  • Ireland has many natural environmental advantages, but we cannot take them for granted. We are already doing a lot, however and I have asked Jack Nolan from my Department to say something about the measures already available to support environmental actions under the CAP as currently configured.
  • And I have also asked Tadhg O’Mahony from the Environmental Protection Agency to describe the environmental challenges that lie ahead when it comes to issues like climate change, water quality and biodeiversity. It’s critically important we have independent agencies that can give us an objective view on how we’re doing on the environment.
  • We would also welcome your views on how farmers can do more in this area.
  • You can do this through completing the CAP submission form that my officials provided to you tonight and which is also available on the Department website.
  • I also want to take this opportunity to remind you that from  2018, all BPS applications are required to be made online on foot of EU Regulations.
  • Online application offers a range of benefits for farmers, and recent years have seen steady growth in the number of farmers moving to online application.  In 2017, 114,000 farmers applied for their BPS online. That is 87% of all applicants.
  • I am aware that some farmers will not have applied online before, and with this in mind my Department will be putting in place a range of supports for farmers as we move towards the 15 May deadline.
  • Should anyone have any queries in relation to registration for online application, officials from my Department’s online team are present here this evening.  Please take this opportunity to talk to them if you have any concerns about the application process.
  • Once again, I would like thank you for your attendance here tonight. I hope you find the information provided here this evening useful. For us, this will be a listening exercise and I encourage you to ensure that you have your say, by making a submission to the Department before 23 March.
  • Thank You.