ICSA welcomes Hogan’s defence of CAP direct payments

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has welcomed Phil Hogan’s defence of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), after it was criticised by the EU Court of Auditors.

Hogan, the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner, defended direct payments under the policy, despite the court questioning the necessity of the payments.

Currently, proposals to reform the CAP are being discussed, causing much consternation from all sides.

According to the court, direct payments are not in line with climate action directives, and should be reduced as part of a new budget for the CAP.

This opinion has drawn criticism from many quarters, including from the first Vice-President of the European Parliament, Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness, who recently had strong words for the auditors.

The Court of Auditors defended its view on the payments at a meeting today, November 21, of the European Parliament agriculture committee, which was attended by Patrick Kent, president of the ICSA.

“The point is not that there is no room for improvement on the proposals, but there is a real concern that the Court of Auditors is going beyond auditing duties and making very political points about the value of direct payments to farmers,” said Kent.

It was notable that many MEPs, including the Irish MEPs on ComAgri – Mairead McGuinness, Matt Carthy and Luke Ming Flanagan – were also vocal in outlining the importance of direct payments.

“The danger is that there are individuals and bodies in Europe who would prefer to sideline the original objective outlined in the Treaty of Rome to provide farmers with a fair standard of living. This is a worrying trend,” added Kent.

ANC Scheme

The ICSA also expressed its support for the 2019 Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme, the details of which were announced today.

However, the group cautioned that getting money to those who need it the most must be the focus now.

The challenge now is to ensure that those who need the payment the most get the most.

“As the old saying goes, it’s not so much that there are disadvantaged areas; rather there are disadvantaged farmers,” said Seamus Sherlock, rural development chairman of the ICSA, who added that the “payments are especially vital for low-income cattle and sheep farmers”.

“It is important that we are finally getting some clarity on this topic and the ICSA will be engaging with the Department on this before the end of the week,” concluded Sherlock.