Ireland is among the EU member states holding out for a lower eco-scheme budget in the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The European Council of Agricultural Ministers held a meeting on Monday 26 April to explore the possibility of ring-fencing up to 25% of direct payment money for eco-schemes.
The European Parliament has been pushing for a 30% allocation, while the Council’s original position was to ring-fence 20% of Pillar 1 funds.
In a compromise proposal, the Council has offered to progressively increase the budget for eco-schemes from 22% in 2023 to 25% in 2025. There would also be an initial two year learning phase to ensure CAP funds are not lost if uptake among farmers is low.
President of the Council, Portuguese Minister for Agriculture Maria do Céu Antunes said many ministers were open to considering the proposal but some expressed concern.
Among them was Irish Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.
Addressing the meeting Minister McConalogue said: “Ireland accepted the minimum 20% contribution from the direct payments envelope to eco-schemes as part of the Council General Approach agreed last October.
“We simply cannot consider the issue of the percentage allocation in isolation. There are far too many other issues that farmers must contend with which are still unresolved, including convergence, redistribution, capping and allocations to young farmers.”
McConalogue insisted the learning phase was a vital part of the proposal to prevent loss of funds.
“In the absence of any sense that the Parliament is willing to accept these flexibilities, combined with the fact that we have no resolution of the direct payment targeting proposals, I am unable to consider any changes in the eco-scheme percentage,” he said.