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O'Neill comments on publication of EU CAP Reform Proposals

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill commented on today’s release of the EU Commission Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) Reform legislative proposals.
Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Minister said: “After months of speculation and leaked documents, I very much welcome the fact that the Commission has now produced a set of formal legislative proposals for the reform of the CAP. These will at last provide a firm basis for debate and negotiation. We will, of course, need to examine these very extensive documents in detail, but it is already clear that the key areas for discussion will revolve around the size of the CAP budget, its distribution among Member States, the future basis for payments to farmers, greening of Pillar I, regional flexibility and simplification.”

The Minister continued: “While I would have liked to have seen a larger CAP budget overall, I broadly welcome the proposed approach to the share out of the Pillar 1 budget among Member States. I will be fighting hard to prevent any reductions to the CAP Budget and will be making a strong case for a significant increase in our rural development budget allocation.

“In terms of the distribution of payments to farmers, it is generally accepted that there should be a move away from historically based payments towards a flat rate regime at regional level. However, we need a smooth and gradual transition over a period of at least five years and I am concerned that these proposals will introduce a very significant step change in the first year of the new regime.”

The Minster added: “The proposals around the greening of Pillar 1 also concern me given their potential negative impact on the competitiveness of the agricultural industry and increase in the administrative burden. Moreover, I have significant doubts in terms of their ability to deliver tangible environment benefits. Therefore, I think we have a lot of work to do on this particular aspect of the proposals.

“The Commission has come forward with proposals to confine support to active farmers. I think most people have sympathy with this objective – the CAP should support farmers. However, if payments are to be confined to active farmers then we need an effective and workable definition of what an active farmer is within the context of a decoupled support regime. I would have severe doubts that the proposed test based on CAP receipts and other income would be prove ineffective and unworkable. What we don’t want is to fall into an administrative quagmire, or even worse, disrupt or distort the whole conacre market and the availability of land to farm businesses.

“On the issue of regional flexibility, I am reasonably heartened by what I have seen so far in terms of our ability to shape the support arrangements to meet our particular circumstances and needs. This is something which I am particularly keen to secure and will be working to ensure the maximum possible degree of regional flexibility.

“In relation to Pillar 2 of the CAP – the Rural Development proposals – I very much welcome the Commission’s increased focus on improving the competitiveness of the food chain and on promoting investment in research and development. I also welcome the focus on job creation and business support. It is also helpful to see tackling poverty emerge as a priority at the EU level – this is an issue that has been a priority for my Department for the past number of years. I will be working hard to ensure that the Rural Development proposals remain flexible enough to allow us to support our farming and rural priorities to 2020.

“As regards simplification, I have to say that based on initial impressions, the proposals are disappointing in this respect and, indeed, appear to be going in the opposite direction in many aspects. Again, this is an issue where we need to push hard to secure significant improvement.”

The Minister concluded: “While we now have a formal set of proposals from the Commission, I must stress that they are precisely that - proposals - and the final agreement may be look significantly different. At this stage, it is important to take some time to analyse and consider the documents very carefully. I will obviously be very keen to take the views of the broad range of stakeholders who will be affected by these proposals and my Department will be launching a full public consultation shortly.

“During the CAP reform negotiations, I intend to meet the EU Commission to ensure that our views are represented and heard in Brussels. I will also engage positively with the Assembly Agricultural and Rural Development Committee, our MEPs, the British Government, the devolved administrations and the Irish Government, including via the North/South Ministerial Council structures. I intend to use every avenue available to me to promote our interests and to achieve the best possible outcome for the north of Ireland.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The EU Commission published their legislative proposals on CAP Reform on 12 October 2011.
  2. All media queries should be directed to the DARD Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email Outside of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.