The European Commission has proposed a 5% cut in funding of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in its first draft of its seven-year budget.
This has led farmers to speak out as they face a loss of up to €17 billion in funding and support. Expenditure on the policy will drop to 30% of the total budget, a fall of 9%.
Setback For Farmers
President of the Irish Farmer’s Association, Joe Healy, has put pressure on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to make an increased CAP budget for Irish farmers a ‘red line’ issue.
He called on the Irish Government, Commissioner Hogan and Irish MEP’s to “pull out all the stops and reject the cuts agenda by the Commission”.
In a statement, President Healy said, “It is clear that the Commission has moved to fill the Brexit gap, but they have prioritised other areas at the expense of the CAP, which is another setback for Irish farmers on foot of the UK decision to leave.”
“All sectors have shared in the economic revival, yet farmers have had their direct payments eroded by inflation. At the very least, farmers need a CAP increase in line with inflation.”
"A Fair Outcome"
EU Commissioner Phil Hogan reaffirmed that direct payments would not fall by more than 3.9% in any Member State. He also added that, after capping and a redistributive payment method is introduced, the impact of the cuts would be lower for small and medium farmers.
Hogan said that he believed the decision is a “very fair outcome” for farmers, “given the very challenging circumstances in which the budget has been framed”.
The new budget gives more responsibility to the individual Member State to make the best use of the agricultural budget. Hogan said that they will have more freedom and flexibility under the new budget to shift funds between direct payments and rural development.
He said, “The savings from capping will remain available to the Member States for redistribution towards farmers, particularly aimed towards small and medium farms.
“If Member States use this possibility well it will mean that all family farms will have this 3.9% cut reduced significantly."
“In fact,” he added, “I would say that the average farmer in each Member State would have no cut in direct payment at all if this is managed well.”
Constant CAP Cuts
President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack, however, has said that this is an “unacceptable” budget which will have a “damaging effect” on rural Ireland.
McCormack said that that farmers have suffered significant cuts in previous CAP reforms and are now having to take another substantial hit.
He said, “The Irish Government must first tell the Commission that cuts to CAP are out of the question and Member States – including Ireland – must make up the Brexit deficit and, secondly, we must seek out Member States with a similar commitment to the integrity of CAP and make a common cause with them.”
The budget is a result of the pressures on the EU from Brexit. There is a total €12 billion cut in the EU budget as a result of the UK leaving the bloc.
Speaking in Kilkenny ahead of the budget announcement in Brussels, Commissioner Hogan admitted that the CAP is an obvious target for cuts, according to the Kilkenny People.
“The European Commission is not like a national government – it cannot run a deficit, so we are bound by budgetary constraints,” Hogan said.
“Meanwhile, Brexit is blowing a €12 billion hole in the overall European budget – and other priorities such as security, migration and defence have grown in prominence in recent years. Another €12 billion is demanded by many member states to ensure delivery of those policies too.”
He said, however, that he would continue to protect the CAP budget.
© 2018 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Aidan O'Sullivan. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.