Coveney in Luxembourg for key negotiations to secure EU farm deal
Irish delegation hoping to secure sign-off on biggest reform of Common Agricultural Policy in a decade
Speaking ahead of this week’s meetings, IFA president John Bryan said a mandatory minimum payment for all farmers would be “hugely damaging” for Irish agriculture. Photograph: David Sleator
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney arrived in Luxembourg last night ahead of a series of key meetings this week at which final agreement on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy is expected to be reached.
As Ireland’s seventh presidency of the Council of the European Union enters its final week, Irish negotiators and Mr Coveney are working to achieve a final sign-off on the deal, which will constitute the biggest reform of CAP in a decade.
A final deal requires agreement by three EU institutions – the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of agriculture ministers, which represents all 27 EU member states.
While the commission launched its proposals in 2011, the Council of Agriculture Ministers, under the Irish presidency, and the European Parliament, reached agreement on their respective positions in March. Since April 11th, negotiations have been conducted between the European Parliament and Irish officials representing the council, in a bid to secure agreement.
While common ground has been reached on most issues, a number of contentious areas still remain. These include the single farm payment, the system of direct supports that are paid to farmers throughout Europe by the European Union. While the overall EU expenditure on the single farm payment is being reduced and rebalanced, the commission has also proposed a radical change to the way in which the payment is distributed within member states.
Instead of the current system where payment is based on past production, the commission is proposing that the payments should be calculated on a per hectare basis, although many farming groups, including the IFA, argue this will reward inactive farmers.
The issue of a minimum payment for farmers is likely to dominate discussions today and tomorrow.
Despite the commission’s proposal that a minimum payment for all farmers should be introduced, the position adopted by member states in March removed the mandatory minimum payment. However, this is now believed to be back on the table, and securing a compromise on the minimum level will now be the focus of discussion.
Speaking ahead of this week’s meetings, IFA president John Bryan said a mandatory minimum payment would be “hugely damaging” for Irish agriculture. “As it stands, many farmers are facing significant cuts. The Minister’s primary focus must be on defending Irish farmers and refusing to accept a deal that could disrupt productive agriculture even more.” Ireland receives around €1.25 billion a year through the direct payment. Mr Bryan called on Mr Coveney to retain the flexibilities that had been gained in the March proposal by member states.
As well as changes to the Single Farm Payment, the other major reform to the Common Agricultural Policy is the introduction of new “greening” measures, which aim to improve the environmental sustainability of farming. Under the proposal, 30 per cent of the single farm payment will be linked to greening.