Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, today warmly welcomed what he described as a historic moment in the evolution of the Common Agricultural Policy. The Minister was speaking following a meeting of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, at which a political agreement on the reform of the CAP, reached earlier in the day between the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission, was endorsed. The agreement marks the first time that a major reform of the CAP has been secured with the involvement of the European Parliament, and represents the successful achievement of Ireland’s objective of an overall political accord before the conclusion of its Presidency of the EU.
Irish Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney TD, went on to describe the main elements of the deal, which was secured after marathon talks between the three institutions that have been taking place in Luxembourg and Brussels since last Sunday.
On the distribution of direct payments within Member States, which the Minister described as one of the most difficult aspects of the negotiations, the institutions had agreed that, in addition to the Commission’s proposed flat-rate payment by 2019, Member States will have the option to apply the partial convergence model recommended by Ireland, subject to a minimum payment per farmer of 60% of the national or regional average payment per hectare by 2019. Member States will also have the option to apply a maximum level of payment, and to limit the amount redistributed from individual farmers to 30% of their total payments. The Minister described this outcome as a reasonable and balanced compromise, which satisfied the demands of Member States as well as accommodating the concerns of the European Parliament. It also represented a very good outcome for Ireland, as the partial convergence model combined with the minimum payment would lead to a redistribution of only about one third of the amount that would have resulted from the Commission’s flat-rate proposal.
Minister Coveney said:
“I am delighted that the Irish Presidency has been able to realise its objective of concluding the reform of the CAP during its Presidency of the European Union. The agreement represents a hugely significant development in the history of the CAP.
Minister Coveney - "For the first time, the three European institutions have come together to agree the framework for the development of the European agriculture sector, and they have delivered a policy that I believe secures the sustainable development of the sector up to 2020 and beyond.”
The Minister also welcomed the outcome of the negotiations on the greening of the CAP. He had supported the Commission’s desire to imbue the direct payments system with a stronger environmental character, and welcomed the balance struck between Member States, the European Parliament and the Commission on the practical implementation of the three proposed greening criteria (crop diversification, maintenance of permanent grassland and ecological focus areas). He also welcomed the institutions’ efforts to ensure that there can be no double funding of environmental measures under the first and second pillars, and noted that the option to apply the greening payment as a percentage of each individual farmers’ payment - as proposed by Ireland - instead of a flat rate would help to minimise the redistributive impact of the new direct payments system. Farmers will also be assisted in getting used to the new system by the fact that penalties for non-compliance with greening will not be implemented until the third year of the new direct payments regime.
On other elements of the package, the Minister welcomed the agreement to abolish sugar quotas in 2017, as had been preferred by Member States, and to modify the changes sought by the European Parliament to the operation of market support mechanisms, particularly in the milk sector. Similarly, a more modest agreement had proven possible in relation to the recognition and operation of producer organisations, linked to the continued application of competition rules to their activities. He noted also the sensible solutions agreed on the definition of an active farmer and on the operation of young farmers and small farmers schemes, as well as on the identification and administration of new areas of natural constraint under the rural development regulation. He particularly welcomed the agreement on a mandatory scheme for young farmers in Pillar 1.
Minister Coveney said:
“What we have here is a very balanced package. The various elements, from the greening of direct payments, through our treatment of active, small and young farmers to the modernisation of the way in which we implement rural development programmes and monitor the financing and implementation of the CAP, demonstrate how a constructive approach by the European institutions can provide a very positive and modern framework for the ongoing development of the agriculture sector.
Minister Coveney - "I am confident that farmers throughout the European Union will benefit from these developments, and that European citizens can be assured that resources are being spent in an efficient, equitable and sustainable manner.”
Concluding, Minister Coveney paid warm tribute to the dedication and commitment of the European institutions to what has been a lengthy and demanding negotiation process. He recalled the hugely significant efforts of the Member States whose Presidencies preceded Ireland’s period in the chair, without which a deal today would not have been possible. And he wished Lithuania every success as it now takes up the reins and gets on with the challenge of implementing this landmark agreement on CAP reform.