CAP obligations will be greatest for intensive agriculture – Creed
Minister Creed said enhanced enivronmental obligations would be shouldered by those involved in intensive agriculture not those on marginal land.

Environmental and climate obligations under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will be greatest for those involved in intensive agriculture.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said the greater focus in terms of sustainability after CAP 2020 reforms will be for more intensive forms of agricultural activity.

He made the comments in the Dáil on Thursday (6 December) in response to a question from Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture Martin Kenny TD.

Marginal land

Deputy Kenny asked the Minister if he shared many farmers’ fears that those on more marginal land would be left to shoulder the majority of the burden when it came to environmental and climate action.

In response, Minister Creed said: “I would like to be able to reassure the deputy that the final outcome [of CAP reforms] will meet the objectives that he aspires to.

"The onus and obligation will be greatest on those who are involved in intensive agricultural activity where the challenge to the landscape, the emissions profile, etc, is far more than those that are involved in less intensive forms of agriculture.”

Conditionality

The European Commission’s draft proposals for CAP 2020 include replacing cross compliance with conditionality.

Commission officials from DG Agri have stated that there will be no backsliding on environmental regulations in CAP 2020.

Instead, it will include additional EU regulations, such as the nitrates directive and the water framework directive.

Deputy Kenny said that farmers had serious concerns over the inclusion of eco-schemes as part of pillar one.

These concerns arose from a fear that conditions normally reserved for pillar two environmental schemes such as GLAS would become mandatory under pillar one.

User-friendly

In response, Minster Creed said: “Our objective is to make the new common agricultural policy as user-friendly as possible, but within the context of the clear direction of travel.

"This is to have a CAP that is far greener in its hue and assist us in meeting the challenging obligations we have, particularly in the area of climate change.”

He said farmers in more marginal areas would be recognised for the benefits less intensive agriculture brought, such as huge biodiversity gains and water quality.

Beef sector to decide how €100m Brexit fund will be distributed – Hogan
Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan was speaking at an agri-tech conference in Kilkenny on Monday.

How the €100m Brexit beef fund will be distributed will be a decision for the Minister for Agriculture and the beef industry, the European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has said.

“We didn’t launch the inter-service consultation within the Commission yet, which we will launch this week.

"Therefore, it will be a matter for Minister Creed to sit down with the beef sector to work out how it’s going to be paid,” Commissioner Hogan told the Irish Farmers Journal.

Member state approval

He added that getting the approval of 27 other EU member states on financial support for the Irish beef sector is not an easy task and emphasised Minister Creed’s success in that.

“There are some cynical people wanting to know about the timing of it [the fund].

"Are they suggesting that we don’t announce financial support for the beef sector?

“In April, I looked for applications from member states about support for vulnerable sectors.

"Four member states applied for supports and the only one that successfully met the conditions was Ireland.

"I announced it when it became available to me as I would any other normal announcement," he said.

The fund

The €100m fund, revealed last week, will see the European Commission put up €50m, with the Irish Government to match this figure.

No details regarding the terms and conditions of the scheme have been released yet.

However, last week, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he expects "the money to flow to farmers in the next couple of months".

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Listen: new agri-tech hub in Kilkenny
The Precision Agriculture Centre of Excellence (PACE) was formally opened by Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan at the Advancing Agri-Tech conference.

A digital innovation hub, specialising in precision agriculture, has been announced for the southeast region of Ireland.

The Precision Agriculture Centre of Excellence (PACE) will be located in Kilkenny to drive the digital innovation of Europe’s agri-food sector.

EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan announced that the hub will receive €30m in funding under the Horizon 2020 programme.

PACE will also have access to cascade funding that will be coming on stream early next year through the smart agri hubs projects and others to be announced in the near future.

Launching Waterford Institute of Technology's Precision Agriculture Hub in Kilkenny Professor Willie Donnelly from WIT, Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan and Colette Byrne from Kilkenny County Council

"Smart use of knowledge, research and innovation is the main source of productivity growth in the EU agri-food sector," Commissioner Hogan said.

“Precision agriculture has never been more important in an industry facing challenges posed by climate change, ecosystem degradation and world population growth, as well as the growing need to produce more using less.

"With facilities like PACE, we are building a network of digital innovation hubs across Europe to accelerate this digital transformation.”

The new hub is being led by Waterford Institute of Technology’s (WIT) ICT research wing Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG).

WIT president Prof Willie Donnelly said PACE “will serve agri-food processors, farm advisory services, companies selling services and products to the agri sector, agri-tech SMEs, start-ups and rural-based industries which have the potential to transform into higher technology and higher value businesses."

"PACE will also serve regulatory, compliance and policy authorities by providing a technology resource to support their mission.”

The new hub will initially be located in St Kieran’s College before being moved to Abbey Quarter in Kilkenny city, where hot-desk facilities and additional space will also be provided for spin-out enterprises.

“PACE will have the capability to identify existing technologies which are of interest to the sector - including the internet of things, big data, robotics and artificial intelligence - and assess their suitability for deployment in the Irish agricultural sector,” Professor Donnelly said.

Kilkenny County Council is also a partner in PACE.

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EU election candidates square off on farming and climate
The size of the national herd was in focus during the first TV debate between MEP candidates in the south of the country.

Candidates in the Ireland south constituency for Friday's European election were divided on the role of agriculture in tackling climate change during Sunday night's debate on RTÉ television.

As sitting Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fine Gael's Andrew Doyle fielded the most direct questions on dairy expansion and its impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Minister Doyle replied that Ireland has some of the lowest emissions per unit of milk or meat produced and said: "In actual fact land solutions for climate change, carbon sequestration, are really where we should be focusing. I firmly believe as someone who is a farmer that instead of pillorying farming we should be looking for solutions."

Sacrifices

His views on this topic were aligned with those of Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher, who said: "We can't ask just one group to make all the sacrifices. Agriculture has its challenges but it's not just about penalising agriculture. It's about being innovative, inventive and coming up with solutions." He mentioned biomass and biogas energy and finance to change farming practices. "I don't think we should be promoting a reduction of our herd as a simple easy solution to our herd," Kelleher added.

More beef, more meat, more eggs in one basket

Independent candidate Diarmuid O'Flynn disagreed and said that the current policy is "more beef, more meat, more eggs in one basket". Meanwhile, "we have this ridiculous situation at the moment and we have Michael Creed, minister for agriculture in China trying to expand our beef market, while at the same time we've just signed the Mercosur deal bringing cheap beef from Argentina," O'Flynn said.

Trade deals

Minister Doyle was quick to remind him that there is no deal signed with Mercosur at this point. Sinn Féin's Liadh Ní Riada also pointed this out and said that the existing CETA trade deal with Canada would be "flooding the market with beef". A deal with Mercosur would favour those who are "cutting the rainforest to produce something sub-quality to what we have," she added.

Debate host Miriam O'Callaghan asked Green senator Grace O'Sullivan about the impact of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from dairy, which provides many jobs in Ireland south. O'Sullivan said she was not about cutting jobs, but the current policy was unsustainable for family farms.

We want to diversify farming in Ireland

"We want to diversify farming in Ireland," she said, including fruit and vegetable production. On climate change, "a just transition means no one will be left behind. This government will have to look at our greenhouse gas emissions which are going through the roof in transport, in agriculture and in different sectors".

Solidarity-People Before Profit candidate Adrienne Wallace advocated for support for small and medium-sized farmers so that they can convert to organic farming.

Carbon tax

Independents for Change candidate Mick Wallace said any carbon tax should be imposed on the guy who is taking it out of the ground in the first place".

Labour candidate Sheila Nunan supported the Oirechtas climate action committee's resolution that increases in carbon tax on fossil fuels should be "ringfenced for those who are in fuel poverty" to help them tackle climate change.

Click here for a list of all candidates in the election.

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