Carthy presses EU Commission Agriculture candidate on CAP inequalities & dominance of processors & retailers
Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has said that the EU nominee for the post of Agriculture Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski from poland, failed to impress during his hearing with members of the European Parliament on Tuesday.
At the hearing of the Agriculture & Rural Development Committee Carthy pressed Mr. Wojciechowski, who is set to replace Phil Hoan on the college of commissioners, on the deep inequalities that exist within CAP and on the growing dominance of a small number of corporate processors & retailers who have forced the depression of the prices received for their product.
Speaking afterwards the Midlands North West MEP said that he believed that Mr. Wojciechowski’s replies to questions were vague, oft times ill-informed and insufficient to inspire the level of confidence required considering the challenges facing farmers in Ireland, and elsewhere in the EU, over the coming years.
Addressing the commissioner-designate at the hearing, Carthy said:
“The commissioner designate refers to the fact that the EU is losing farms at a rate of 4 million per decade. I want to save the commission the expense of carrying out an assessment to identify the cause of this and explain that is simply because farms are not viable. Farming has become unprofitable for too many and therefore farmers are being forced off the land.
“There are two areas that must be addressed to help tackle this. The first is a reform of farm payments; currently just 125,000 of the wealthiest farm enterprises in the EU receive €13 billion in CAP payments. That is about 10% of the overall EU budget(!). This is a huge amount going to that small number of farm enterprises, while most farmers receive a pittance in comparison.
“Secondly, within the agricultural sector, we have seen ongoing consolidation of large corporate processors and retailers, and the European Commission has stood by while it has happened. This consolidation has weakened the position of farmers and in turn depressed the prices that they receive. As a result, this has led to unprecedented protests in Ireland by beef farmer.
“So the question for the commission nominee to answer is what he intends to do to ensure the redistribution of farm payments towards ordinary farmers and to tackle the small number of powerful corporate interests in the agricultural sector?”
In his response Mr Wojciechowski stated that the EU cannot decide the prices and the market must be free. He proceeded to relay broad statistics and said that he wanted a debate.
Clearly unimpressed MEP Carthy chastised “I don’t know what that was but it wasn’t an answer to my questions”. He suggested that another hearing with the commissioner will be necessary before the nomination of Mr. Wojciechowski can be ratified.
Matt Carthy proceeded, in his follow-up contribution to ask the commissioner-designate if he would give his view on two specific proposals.
Ban Below-Cost Selling
“Firstly will the commission nominee support a hard, mandatory, upper limit on high payments so that the balance can be redistributed to ordinary farmers? And, secondly, I believe firmly that if we are to tackle the dominance of a small number of processors and retailers we need to introduce a ban on below cost selling by retailers on agricultural products. Will the commissioner endorse that proposal?”
Again, Mr Wojciechowski responded in vague terms and Matt Carthy stated bluntly afterwards: “If a nominee for the position of Agriculture Commissioner does not a view on these matters then they should not be looking for the job. The previous Commissioner, Phil Hogan, had a position, unfortunately it was the wrong one on both counts. If we continue along that track then we will continue to see the numbers of farmers decline.
“This could be the last chance to save family farming as a viable model. In order to do so we need to have a fairer CAP and we need to rein in the large factories and retailers. In the first instance, we need a commissioner who will work towards these ends” he concluded.