22nd June 2012
Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president Gabriel Gilmartin is calling for a “targeted and decent increase” in EU payments to deserving and active farmers, including young farmers, who for one reason or another, do badly under the current historic system. This is in contrast to the flat rate per-hectare payment being proposed by the EU Agriculture Commissioner.
Mr Gilmartin was speaking at an open forum on the CAP reform negotiations, organised by ICSA, at the Clanard Court in Athy last night (Thursday), which was chaired by ICSA CAP Committee Chairman Billy Gray and featured guest speakers Liam Aylward MEP and Martin Heydon TD. The meeting came just days after the European Parliament’s agriculture committee debated the ‘Santos Report’ which contains a number of amendments to EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos’ original CAP reform proposals – a debate which was observed in Brussels by a delegation from the ICSA.
One of the main concerns during these talks, according to Mr. Gilmartin, is the fact that the overall EU budget has yet to be decided – and this means that we don’t know how much will be allocated to the CAP post-2013. Ideally, the CAP reforms would be decided upon during the Irish presidency of the EU in the first half of next year – however this is looking increasingly unlikely. Mr. Gilmartin called on the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture to put a “huge effort” into getting agreement on the overall EU budget as quickly as possible, so that progress can be made on the CAP budget.
Mr. Gilmartin also outlined to those at the meeting that one of the other big concerns is the desire of Commissioner Ciolos to bring in a flat rate payment per hectare – which ICSA says, “might work in theory but not in practice”. Mr Gilmartin said that ICSA is working to minimise cuts to the Single Payment of active farmers. He added that increases should be targeted carefully at deserving cases rather than a flat across the board increase for those with no or low payments.
“The problem is that an across the board flat rate is inefficient because it spreads payments too thinly. It involves redistributing money to sofa farmers and speculators as well as landowners with vast tracks of land. Meanwhile, active farmers lose out.”
ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch gave a comprehensive presentation of the current state of play in the CAP negotiations. Mr. Punch presented case studies showing the financial effect that will be felt by Irish farmers should either the Ciolos or Santos proposals be carried – and also presented the alternative strategy being pushed by the ICSA, which would see less cuts to Single Farm Payments in Ireland, while making the payments more targeted and efficient.
Ireland East MEP Liam Aylward – who is a member of the European Parliament agriculture committee – outlined that the European Parliament now has co-decision on the CAP reform proposals, which means that your local MEP has a significant influence on the outcome of the negotiations.
Fine Gael TD for Kildare South, Martin Heydon described Thursday night’s meeting as a “really important interaction” with the local farming community and commended the ICSA for organising the event.
The ICSA’s National Executive will meet next week to formalise the proposals being put forward by the organisation on the CAP reforms and are calling for opinions and suggestions from all members in the meantime so that the best possible deal for Irish farmers can be hammered out at European level.