MEPs call for increased CAP funding
MEPs have called for an increase in funding in the next CAP budget to maintain farm incomes despite a budget shortfall caused by Brexit.

Members of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee have called for an increase in Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) spending or at least for it to be ‘maintained at its current levels,’ in the next multiannual financial framework (MFF), the EU 's budget from 2020.

The MEPs newly published opinion aims to counter fears that the next CAP budget will suffer from budget cuts and Brexit, as the UK contributes billions of euros towards the policy evey year.

The opinion, backed by 32 MEPs, including Ireland's Mairead McGuinness, will add weight behind discussions for increased funding in CAP.

Compensate for this loss by finding alternative forms of financing, for example by increasing Member States’ contributions

“Brexit will have a projected impact of between €3.8bn and €4.1bn a year on the CAP, and [MEPs] calls therefore on the Commission to compensate for this loss by finding alternative forms of financing, for example by increasing Member States’ contributions as a percentage of gross national income,” the opionion passed by the MEP’s stated.

They also noted that the CAP budget was no longer the biggest EU policy, and its share of the budget had dropped from 75% to 38% in the last three decades. "Whilst farm subsidies only account for an insignificant amount in relation to the Member States’ total GDP, they are essential for ensuring continuity infarming and security of income for farmers," the opinion adds.

Some of the points they put forward to ensure future funding included:

  • Providing more access to young farmers to enter farming, and a support mechanism for older farmers to exit the industry.
  • A limit on individual farm payments at €50,000, €100,000 or €150,000.
  • Further simplification of the CAP funding system, to "reduce the administrative and financial burden for farmers".
  • Increase member state contributions by over 1% of the gross national income to make-up the shortfall in funding post-Brexit.
  • Keep the CAP as a fully integrated EU policy and resist suggestions to make national governments pay for a portion of direct payments.
  • The rapporteur on the file, Sofia Ribeiro, said that the vote "sent a strong signal to the Commission that the agricultural sector was one of the most important pillars of the EU and that is needs to be adequately financed".

    The opinion will be considered by the European Commission in March, after scrutiny from the Budget Committee.

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    Hannigan to prioritise environment committee over agriculture as MEP
    Dominic Hannigan is a Labour party candidate in the MEP elections for the Midlands North West.

    Dominic Hannigan has said that if elected as Midland North West MEP, he will seek a seat on the environment, public health and food safety committee rather than the agriculture committee. The Labour party candidate said that the farming lobby is already well represented by MEPs from the region.

    “The three incumbent MEPs already sit on the agriculture and rural development committee, and a number of candidates have pledged to seek a seat on the committee if elected,” he said.

    Imbalance

    “I agree that agriculture has a significant role to play in the economy of the region, but this is a complete imbalance and speaks more about the power of the farming lobby than the needs of the communities of the Midlands North West.”

    Hannigan says his preferred committee is dealing with the climate crisis. The former Meath East TD has previously been chair of the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, and of the Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs.

    He now lives in Galway city, and runs a small business – Lough Mask Distillery – in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo.

    “Less than 10% of the population of this constituency are farmers. If elected, I will seek a seat on the environment, public health and food safety committee,” he said.

    Campaign priorities

    “Climate change and protecting our environment has been one of my key campaign priorities. We are facing huge challenges as a society in the coming years and if we are going to meet these challenges, we will need to make significant changes in how we farm. I have pledged to work for a ‘Just Transition’ that minimises the impact on working people to tackle climate change.”

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    MEP voting record over the last parliament
    With the European elections almost upon us, Odile Evans looks at the voting record of sitting MEPs who are seeking re-election.

    Legislation on trade deals, glyphosate, anti-microbial resistance, unfair trading practices and crisis management tools for farmers have all been voted on by Irish MEPs since the European Parliament elections in 2014.

    In the table, the Irish Farmers Journal gives a breakdown on how MEPs who are seeking re-election voted over the term of the last parliament.

    All of the Sinn Féin and Independent MEPs either abstained, voted against or were absent for the votes on the Singapore, Canada, Japan and American trade deals. The four Fine Gael MEPs voted in favour of them.

    The Sinn Féin MEPs abstained, voted against or were absent for other votes relevant to farming, including that on unfair trading practices (UTP), live export regulations, glyphosate and CAP tools to deal with crises in agricultural markets. Speaking on behalf of the Sinn Féin MEPs, Matt Carthy said he did not support the UTP legislation because he “cannot look farmers in the eye and tell them their situation will improve as a result” of its introduction.

    He said the live export rules were too stringent for Irish exporters and that if current EU rules were strictly adhered to then it would have the highest animal welfare standards in the world. As first vice-president of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness was chairing the session on this day and therefore did not vote.

    McGuinness said she voted against an objection to the extension of the licence for glyphosate and did not support its phasing out. Carthy said Sinn Féin abstained from that vote as the active substance should be banned from use in public parks and pre-harvest, but that its use in Irish agriculture is important and should have a strict licensing system until its safety is proven.

    Trade deal impact

    1 Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

    Talks between the EU and US were suspended by President Trump when he came into office but were already deadlocked over the issue of access for hormone-treated beef to the EU and mutual recognition of standards.

    2 EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

    One of the most comprehensive trade deals ever entered into by the EU. It was signed off in 2016 but is being implemented provisionally as not signed off by individual member states yet. It has a generous 45,000t beef quota for Canada which is widely opposed by EU farmers and access to Canada dairy markets remains difficult for EU exporters.

    3 Japan

    This deal came into effect in 2019 and is one of the most favourable ever negotiated for EU farmers. It reduces beef and dairy tariffs from 38.5% down to 9% over 15 years and virtually clears tariffs on pig meat. Japan is also one of the biggest importing countries in the world for agricultural produce.

    4 Singapore

    This is a huge trading hub for Asia similar to what Rotterdam is for Europe. It is not a huge volume importer but has no agriculture as such of its own and imports what it needs for its urban population. It is a high-value market as well as being a trading hub for other Asian markets.

    CAP analysis irrelevant until regulation is decided - Creed
    Mairead McGuinness has called on Minister Creed to release preliminary results of the Department's analysis of how the new CAP will impact payments to Irish farmers.

    Any analysis on the impact of new Common Agricultural Policy regulations is only a draft until final decisions are made in the EU, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has said. But MEP Mairead McGuinness says that any impact assessment carried out by the Department should be made available to help inform voting decisions.

    “Ahead of the [agriculture] committee's vote, I wrote to Minister Creed urging him to carry out an impact assessment on how implementation of convergence of payments would impact on a range of family farms. It’s critically important that we know the impact of such a move,” she said.

    But Minister Creed has said that all direct payment measures are inextricably linked to each other.

    “This means that each time one of the elements is changed, each of the other elements also must change. As a result, any analysis, including analysis on convergence, only remains current until one of the elements changes.This state of flux is likely to continue until the regulations are fully developed, at which time detailed analyses will be completed to fully address the impact on farmers in Ireland of CAP 2020,” he said.

    The draft legislative proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020 were launched by European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan on 1 June 2018. The proposals involve significant changes to the the distribution of direct payments among farmers and the increasing environmental conditionality attaching to such payments. It also gives more powers to each of the member states to allocate payments where needed.

    Work is currently under way in the Department of Agriculture to analyse the impact of changes to direct payments in the draft regulations.

    “Preliminary modelling exercises have been carried out and the results of these analyses are currently being reviewed and revised to take account of the most recently available data,” Creed said.

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