Talks to continue on EU legislation for fairness in the food chain
Proposals to reduce the dominance of retailers and large processors in the agri-food industry will take some more "weeks" to be finalised.

The latest round of discussions between the European Parliament, Council and Commission ended on Thursday night witout agreement on proposed EU legislation to tackle unfair trading practices in agriculture and food markets.

"We are committed to cutting the unfair [trading practices] but, at the same time, we want an ambitious new law that will ensure the highest possible level of protection for our farmers and thus safeguard the long-term sustainability of agri-food communities," said MEP Paolo De Castro, the Parliament's lead negotiator on this issue.

“We still have time and we will invest the upcoming weeks into achieving the best quality result that our farmers, food producers and consumers deserve.”


The trialogue between European institutions to agree the text began on 25 October, with a Christmas deadline if legislation is to be passed before EU elections next May.

The Commission's proposal would outlaw some practices including late payments and cancellations of orders, but has been criticised for failing to introduce an outright ban on below-cost selling and full transparency on pricing along the food chain.

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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.


“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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