Just 20 years ago, European policy makers and farming representatives met in Ireland and adopted the Cork declaration, which stated that “sustainable rural development must be put at the top of the agenda of the European Union”.

This led to the creation of the so-called second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which comes in addition to direct aid to productive farmers under the single farm payment and supports rural development programmes in all EU member states to improve economic, social and environmental conditions.

Between EU and national exchequer funding, the current rural development plans are worth €161bn to European farmers and rural communities under the 2014-2020 CAP. In Ireland, the rural development plan represents more than €400m per year and includes schemes such as TAMS, BDGP, GLAS and ANC.

Brexit and climate obligations

The European Commission has convened a second Cork conference this week to prepare for the future of rural development, with Brexit and climate change obligations likely to be key topics.

More than 300 delegates from all 28 EU member states as well as the US and China are taking part, ranging from government officials to farming organisation representatives, academics and MEPs.

European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan is in Cork to open and close proceedings, with a new declaration to be drawn up during the conference.

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