European Commission officially unveils CAP 2020 proposals
European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan announced on Friday his plans for a modernised, simplified CAP post-2020.

With a budget of €365bn, the Common Agricultural Policy proposals give member states greater flexibility and responsibility for choosing how and where to invest their CAP funding. However, they will each have to meet goals set at EU level towards a smart, resilient, sustainable and competitive agricultural sector, while at the same time ensuring a fair and better targeted support of farmers' income.

The main features of the Commission’s proposals CAP 2020 are:

1. A new way of working: member states will have more flexibility in how to use their funding allocations, allowing them to design programmes that respond to farmers' and wider rural communities' concerns. Member states will also have the option to transfer up to 15% of their CAP allocations between direct payments and rural development and vice-versa to ensure that their priorities and measures can be funded. A level playing-field among member states will be ensured through:

  • Strategic plans covering the whole period, setting out how each member state intends to meet nine EU-wide economic, environmental and social objectives, using both direct payments and rural development. The Commission will approve each plan to ensure consistency and the protection of the single market.
  • The Commission will follow each country's performance and progress towards the agreed targets.
  • 2. Better targeting of support: direct payments will remain an essential part of the policy, ensuring stability and predictability for farmers. Priority will be given to supporting the small and medium-sized farms that constitute the majority of the EU’s farming sector, and to helping young farmers. The Commission remains committed to external convergence.

    Direct payments to farmers above a threshold €60,000 will be reduced and capped for payments above €100,000 per farm. Labour costs will be taken fully into account.

    Front loading: small and medium-sized farms will receive a higher level of support per hectare.

    Countries will have to set aside at least 2% of their direct payment allocation for helping young farmers' get set up. This will be complemented by financial support for rural development and different measures facilitating access to land and land transfers.

    3. Environmental and climate action: climate change, natural resources, biodiversity, habitats and landscapes are all addressed. Farmers' income support is already linked to the application of environment and climate-friendly practices and the new CAP will include mandatory and incentive-based measures:

  • Direct payments will be conditional on enhanced environmental and climate requirements.
  • Each member state will have to offer eco-schemes to support farmers in going beyond the mandatory requirements, funded with a share of their national direct payments' allocations.
  • At least 30% of each rural development national allocation will be dedicated to environmental and climate measures.
  • 40% of the CAP's overall budget is expected to contribute to climate action.
  • In addition to the possibility to transfer 15% between pillars, member states will also have the possibility to transfer an additional 15% from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 for spending on climate and environment measures (without national co-financing).
  • 4. Greater use of knowledge and innovation: The CAP will include a budget of €10bn from the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme set aside for research and innovation projects in food, agriculture, rural development and bioeconomy.

    Member states will be encouraged to use big data and new technologies for controls and monitoring (for example, verifying farm sizes for direct payment claims using satellite data).

    Countries must also step up the digitisation of rural life, for example through extending broadband access in rural regions.

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    Teagasc appoints new principal at Kildalton
    The Co Kilkenny agricultural college has a new head in Tim Ashmore, replacing the retiring Paul Hennessy.

    Teagasc has appointed Tim Ashmore as the new principal for its agricultural and horticulture college in Kildalton, Pilltown, Co Kilkenny. He takes over from Paul Hennessy who is retiring.

    Ashmore has been promoted from his previous position as assistant principal, which he held for the past six years. He previously worked for Teagasc as teacher and lecturer, tillage specialist and as an agricultural advisor.

    Green Cert

    A part-time tillage farmer in Co Kildare, Ashmore holds an honours degree in agricultural science from University of Plymouth's Seale Hayne faculty, a graduate diploma in business in farm financial management from Waterford Institute of Technology and an MBS in business practice from the Irish Management Institute.

    "The integration of the revised level 5 and 6 certificate in agriculture programmes is an exciting challenge and is a priority for me," Ashmore said in relation to integrating the new Green Cert into the college's programme.

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    Transparency in pesticide approval process set to increase
    Following controversies that arose over the renewal of glyphosate, a special EU committee has recommended increasing transparency in the process.

    MEPs voted in favour of proposals to increase the transparency of the EU pesticide approval process on Wednesday.

    A report produced in October 2018 recommended that the public be given access to the studies used in the authorisation procedures for pesticides. It also calls for a clamp down on fake and illegal pesticides entering the EU.

    The report was adopted with 526 votes in favour, 66 votes against and 72 abstentions.

    It was produced by a special committee, PEST, which was established to look into the EU’s authorisation procedure following controversy surrounding the renewal of glyphosate.

    Co-author of the report, Norbert Lins said: "It is crucial that the approval procedure remains science-based. On such an important issue, scientific research is the be-all and end-all. Interests or ideologies have no place here. This decision must not be dependent on daily politics or emotions."

    Over-politicised

    Earlier this month, Mairead McGuinness MEP raised concerns that EU pesticide policy was being over-politicised. She said there were growing populist calls to ban all agrochemicals without thinking of the consequences for farmers.

    She highlighted the risk of scientific rigour taking second place to opinion.

    "We need to give consideration to the future of food production and how plant protection products [PPPs] fit into a sustainable, environmentally-friendly system, rather than starting from the position that the use of PPPs carry huge risks and that they can be done without,” McGuinness said.

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    TDs want CCTV and stronger garda presence to fight rural crime
    A community CCTV scheme remains under-subscribed and the number of gardaí deployed to rural areas remains too low, opposition TDs have said.

    Delivery of community CCTV schemes, a more visible garda presence and tougher laws on bail, legal aid and trespassing are needed to combat rural crime, according to a motion introduced by Tipperary independent TD Mattie McGrath on behalf of the Rural Independent Alliance .

    All opposition parties supported the initiative put forward in the Dáil on Tuesday night, with most speakers highlighting poor deployment of CCTV networks promised in the Programme for Government.

    CCTV schemes

    While the motion stated that only four communities had received approval to deploy CCTV since 2017, Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality David Stanton corrected this, saying 20 grant applications were now approved.

    The scheme is too difficult for local communities to operate and implement

    However, Fianna Fáil TD for Cork south west Margaret Murphy O'Mahony pointed out that only €430,000 was spent out of the €2m available for the scheme.

    "It is stil the case that the CCTV scheme that was rolled out many years ago by the Government is being under-utilised, in particular because the scheme is too difficult for local communities to operate and implement," said Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan.

    Several TDs also urged the Government to install CCTV cameras with number plate recognition on motorways and bridges to monitor criminal gang movements.

    Trespassing law under review

    On trespassing, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the law is "under constant review" and agreed to engage with TDs on the issue, but argued that existing legislation is "robust". Kildare south Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O'Loughlin said: "There appears to be some correlation throughout the country, in particular in counties close to Dublin which contain rural areas, between people coming to hunt and stalk and robberies happening at a later stage."

    A number of TDs also highlighted cases of crimes committed by repeat offenders on bail, with ministers saying that recent legislation has made it easier for judges to refuse bail.

    Government to tighten legal aid

    Several speakers also criticised the cost of legal aid for repeat criminals. While Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton said legal aid is essential to ensure prosecution can happen without claims of an unfair trial, he added that his department was preparing a bill to introduce more rigorous means testing.

    Most speakers called for a more visible garda presence in rural areas, but Minister Flanagan said this was the responsibility of the Garda commissioner.

    The Dáil is scheduled to vote on the motion on Thursday.

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