Agriculture talks 'a real challenge'


MINISTER FOR Agriculture Simon Coveney has said “it is going to be a real challenge” to get an acceptable outcome from negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap).

“I can assure you I will not sign up to an outcome that is not in the interests of Irish farming,” he added.

Mr Coveney told the Dáil last night that he wanted, from an Irish perspective, a well-resourced Cap and that the State retain its share of funds and had flexibility in delivering reforms on a national level.

Mr Coveney said the multi-annual financial framework, which was Euro-speak for the budget negotiations, would decide the overall EU budget amount for Cap and, as a consequence, the allocation for Ireland.

“We are hoping to get a decision by heads of state before the end of the year,” he added.

The Minister complimented the organisers of yesterday’s demonstration in Dublin by farmers.

“It was handled very well and the inconvenience caused to people living in Dublin was kept to a minimum,” he added.

Mr Coveney said that innovation was at the heart of the “food harvest 2020 strategy”.

“We are taking a strategic approach to developing quality food products, adding value and competing at the top end of markets worldwide,” he added. He said the Kerry group was leading the way with that investment.

The Minister was replying to a Fianna Fáil Private Members’ motion critical of the Government’s farming policy. Fianna Fáil spokesman on agriculture Eamon Ó Cuív called on the Government to put down a clear marker relating to the Cap negotiations.

Nothing less than the €1.6 billion annually, as was available under the previous Cap, would be acceptable. It was up to the Minister, he said, to ensure that Ireland took a proactive role in negotiating the financial envelope and that it was maintained intact.

“Anything less would be an abject failure,” Mr Ó Cuív added.

He accused the Department of Agriculture of pursuing a policy that hit the poorest and most vulnerable farmers all the time.

He understood, he said, that 10,000 letters were written to farmers, the vast majority of whom were living in poor land areas, relating to stocking density.

In many cases, they were restricted in the amount of stock they could hold by regulations imposed by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.