The Agriculture & Rural Development committee of the European Parliament this week adopted a report entitled “The Future of Food and Farming” which Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, described as an important signal for a better CAP with a fairer distribution of payments to farmers. The report, he said, while not perfect does contain some important elements that he believes need to be reflected in the new Common Agriculture Policy.
The Midlands North West representative said:
“I am particularly pleased that my fellow MEP’s on the Agriculture & Rural Development Committee has finally accepted that a mandatory upper payment limit at EU level is required to ensure that most farmers receive an increase in the supports they receive.
“For several years, Sinn Féin has been making the case for a real payment cap that would deliver savings in order for a fairer distribution of payments across the farming community. We know the current system does not work because a small portion of farm enterprises continue to receive payments far beyond the supposed cap of €150,000 while the majority of farm families struggle to make ends meet. The fact that 20% of farmers still receive 80% of payments is evidence of the inequalities at the heart of CAP.
“In my time as a member of the European Parliament I have repeatedly a reduced and strict cap against opposition from other MEP’s, including on the Agriculture committee, and also, disappointingly from Irish Commissioner Hogan who regularly responded that it was not practical. This week we have seen a turning point at parliament level that Commissioner Hogan and the Council cannot ignore.
“This is simply an early marker and there will be much work to do to ensure a fairer distribution of CAP payments.
“Proper implementation of these measures should be used to increase payments to small and medium sized family farms.
“It is important to say that any savings made must not reduce national envelopes. If, for example, an upper payment limit of €60,000 is put in place in Ireland, as is the latest Commission proposal, the funds that previously been went to enterprises receiving above that figure must be redistributed within Ireland so that most farmers will see an increase in their payments.
“In terms of the overall report adopted this week a fundamental weakness is that it was drafted before the announcement of the new proposed budget and therefore fails to address the challenges of the suggested cuts contained therein.
“At this stage, the 5% cut to CAP is only a proposal, albeit a dangerous one. I am increasingly of the view that there is an option to protect Irish farmers from these cuts without raising Ireland’s GNI contributions.
“This would require provision in the CAP for Member States to fill any hole in direct payments as a result of any cuts. Any member State that values its primary producers would be given the flexibility to match-fund any reduction in the national envelop of Pillar I payments. This combined with the measures proposed in the “Future of Food and Farming” report would create the opportunity to protect Irish farmers and see increases in payments to those who need them most”.