Coveney satisfied with expected CAP reform deal

Wednesday 26 June 2013 22.40
Swedish Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson and Simon Coveney share a joke at talks in Luxembourg earlier this week
Swedish Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson and Simon Coveney share a joke at talks in Luxembourg earlier this week

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said the Government has achieved everything it was looking for in its negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Minister Coveney was speaking to RTÉ after agreement was reached between the Irish presidency of the European Union and representatives of the European Parliament this afternoon.

The reforms offer subsidies to keep farms producing in regions where conditions are hard, going against the EU’s shift towards relying on market forces in agriculture.

Since 1992, the European Union has been altering its CAP to encourage farmers to grow crops in response to market prices, not subsidies.

The aim was to avoid the butter mountains and wine lakes seen in the 1980s, when farmers were paid to produce even when markets were satiated.

"The current reform is quite a break from that," said Alan Matthews, Professor Emeritus of European Agricultural Policy at Trinity College.

EU negotiators said they agreed sweeping changes to the farm policy, fixing the rules governing €50 billion in annual farm subsidies for 2014-2020.

But it also lets some countries link direct subsidies to output levels in certain regions, to help maintain output where farmers face natural or other constraints, such as dairy farms in mountainous central France.

Under the complex new rules, for some member states up to 15% of payments may be coupled but for others it may be only 8%.

Mr Coveney said it was agreed this morning that the ending of sugar quotas will happen in 2017 and there will be market supports for the milk sector which will allow the Irish business to expand and grow.

Mr Coveney said he wanted to conclude talks on CAP when "Ireland had maximum [negotiating] impact" in its capacity as presidency of the EU, which ends this week.

He said these negotiations were hugely important for Ireland and would see €12bn in support for Ireland over the next seven years, an amount that accounts for 85% of EU funds coming into Ireland.

He said this is essentially about "shaping the future direction of Irish agriculture" and he was "pleased with the outcome".

However, the Irish Farmers’ Association is not happy with the deal.

IFA President John Bryan said this was a "flawed reform which is taking CAP in the wrong direction".

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association President John Comer said he recognised that progress had been made on what he termed the "disastrous original proposals" of the European Commission.

However, he added that "overall the deal will be considered negative by the country's most progressive farmers".

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association said the original plan was flawed, but the compromise deal was "maybe something people could live with".

Eddie Punch said the agreement contained "more redistribution than we would have liked".

MEP Mairead McGuinness said all farmers will have some level of pain as a result of the deal.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Ms McGuinness said that no-one wanted to farm production to be hit as a result of the package and that is why a degree of flexibility was built into it.

She said it was up to member states to look at what is on the table and make it work for their farmers.

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