This week in Strasbourg Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan attended a meeting of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee where he defended his proposals for the next round of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).
During the exchange Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, told the commissioner that he had prioritised the interests of corporate farming interests ahead of those of family farmers.
“CAP is vitally important. But, the legacy of each CAP reform has been fewer farmers on the land, a lower proportion of younger farmers and widening inequalities that now sees 80% of direct payments go to just 20% of the wealthiest farm enterprises..
“In order to tackle those inequalities we know that an upper payment limit needs to be in place in order to ensure that the majority of farmers receive increased supports. The commissioner announced that he was going to introduce such a limit, initially stating that it would be at €60,000 and subsequently providing for a €100,000 upper limit.
“In fact both these figures are a mirage. The commissioner has created so many loopholes within the proposal that excessive payments will continue unhindered while most farmers will continue to struggle.
“Young farmers will continue to be at the mercy of the national reserve at the archaic entitlements system will remain in place.
“The commissioner regularly talks about simplification – so why not move to the most simple method of determining payments? There is a definition for an active farmer and there are definitions for eligible land. Why not simply pay an equal payment-per-hectare (front-loaded with upper payment limit) to those who meet those criteria?
“Such a measure would benefit the vast, vast majority of farmers; would be a huge stimulus to rural economies and would create the level playing field to allow young farmers to enter the sector.
“The only people who could have a problem with such a move are those corporate farm enterprises that are currently receiving exorbitant payments at the expense of the majority of farmers.
“Unfortunately, the commissioner has prioritised those corporate farm interests ahead of family farmers.
“As a member of the European Parliament Agriculture & Rural Development committee, I will be striving to amend Phil Hogan’s proposals in a bid to create a better, fairer CAP that is fit for purpose and which delivers for farmers and the communities dependent on them.”