McGuinness ‘puzzled’ by auditors’ stance on CAP reform

Mairead McGuinness, Vice-President of the European Parliament, has criticised the European Court of Auditors over its report into the reform proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020.

In a report published today, the court found that the reforms didn’t match up to the EU’s plans for a greener and performance-based approach, and that its targets weren’t adequately defined.

In response to the report, McGuinness had stern words for the court, saying it “fails to suggest alternatives”.

We need farmers on the ground to deliver on the environmental and climate objectives and they need adequate incomes to remain on farms.

She added that direct payments are vital for farmers, without which, she claimed, they wouldn’t be able to continue farming.

This was in retaliation to the court’s finding that the direct payments, which would still, as now, make up the bulk of the CAP’s budget if the reforms are applied, are not suitable for addressing environmental concerns, or for supporting viable income.

“The lack of young people in agriculture is further evidence that the farm income situation is not conducive to encouraging young people to farm, as they see better opportunities elsewhere,” said McGuinness, adding: “Indeed the current system may also be limiting the access of young people to farming.”

A performance-based policy

The auditors welcomed the proposal to shift from compliance to performance in terms of how the policy is implemented, but said that the reforms do not include enough performance incentives, and lack objectives based on output.

But this puts too much pressure on farmers, according to McGuinness.

It is the job of the auditors to audit. The stance they have taken is puzzling.

“Asking farmers to do more with less is a big ask, when there are so many different and sometimes competing demands,” she said.

“As I read the CAP proposal, the entire focus of the reforms is on extra environment and climate conditionality, eco-schemes that go beyond that, and rural development measures that are a further step above what’s being done currently.

“It’s a demanding reform for farmers,” she concluded.