Coveney reports progress in talks on EU farm policy


AN INCREASING degree of common ground is developing between European ministers in discussions on the future of EU farm policy, the Minister for Agriculture has said.

On his return from talks with counterparts in Berlin, Rome and Budapest, Simon Coveney said agreement appeared to be building for some of the key Irish positions in the negotiations on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap), which include defending the scale of the budget and opposition to the distribution of a flat-rate subsidy.

There is concern that a flat rate would take no account of differences in the productive capacity of land or levels of investment of individual farmers.

The Department of Agriculture has said that under a national flat rate, some 76,000 Irish farmers would gain up to 86 per cent on their payments, while some 57,000 would lose an average of 33 per cent.

“I stressed to my colleagues the absolute priority we must attach to defending the Cap budget in the multi-annual financial framework negotiations, and I was pleased by the common view we shared on this,” Mr Coveney said.

“I also emphasised the importance of a fair deal on the distribution of funds between member states, including rural development funds on which the commission has not yet made a proposal.”

Talk are ongoing on the structure and shape the policy is likely to take in the period 2014 to 2020.

Agriculture is the only major sector with a common centrally funded EU policy, accounting for 36 per cent of the EU budget. Ireland receives close to €2 billion a year in subsidies, mostly through the single direct payment.

Mr Coveney said Italy, Spain and Portugal were now closely aligned to Ireland’s position on the policy and that he would continue to work with other countries to build new alliances and further increase the size of the grouping.

He stressed there were still tough negotiations ahead.