‘A 0% cut to CAP is a real possibility’ – Hogan

The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, has moved to downplay concerns over potential significant cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget post-2020.

In recent weeks, there has been widespread speculation over the possible slashing of the CAP funding pot in light of the net loss of the UK’s estimated €12 billion annual contribution to EU coffers when it vacates the bloc.

Possible scenarios that have been making the headlines include everything from a 5% cut to a 30% cut – figures that have been causing a great deal of anxiety at farm level in Ireland.

However, sitting down with AgriLand at the European People’s Party group conference in Valencia, Spain, yesterday, Commissioner Hogan moved to alleviate the extent of the potentially devastating CAP budget reductions.

I cannot provide clarity on the budget until the budget is agreed and clearly Brexit is an issue that is causing some difficulty at the moment.

“And – of course – if member states do not want to fill the budget deficit from additional contributions or new sources of income, well then the budget is going to be reduced,” he said.

However, the commissioner was keen to note that 21 of the 27 member states are willing to make such a commitment – including lreland.

“This view is shared by a significant number of prime ministers around the European Union, which is very heartening; but, at the same time, in any budget scenario we have to have unanimity and there will be five or six member states who are net payers who will want to see some of their key priorities – such as defence, security and migration – being met,” he said.

With the EU budgetary process due to commence on May 2 when the European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, Gunther Oettinger, will present the commission’s proposal, Hogan stresses that “we’re only at the start of the process”.

Of all the scenarios that are being mentioned; no one is mentioning a 0% cut. That is an option as well which was in the communication published by the commission, so these are just scenarios.

“They don’t in anyway represent necessarily the type of massive cuts that will be contemplated by the commission on May 2.

“Even before the ball is thrown in in the budgetary game it’s good to have 21 member states who will say, in a positive way, that they are more wiling to put more money into the EU budget overall to make up for the deficit that arises due to Brexit,” he said.

Noting the fluidity of the budgetary situation, Hogan also highlighted how – last week – British Prime Minister Theresa May conceded that the UK would be prepared to pay in some financial contribution for the EU agencies as part of the divorce process.

“Maybe that will help to lower the budget deficit arising from Brexit as well, so there are a lot of scenarios that can emerge between now and the end of the budgetary process in 2019.

“Farmers can be assured I will be fighting the battle for them to protect, as far as possible, the level of income in small and medium-sized farms,” he said.