‘Slashing the CAP budget is not the way forward’

Slashing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is not the way forward, according to Irish MEP and the first vice-president of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness.

The future of the CAP budget will be debated this week in the agriculture committee of the European Parliament, as concerns mount over attempts to slash the budget in light of Brexit and new demands for EU funds, McGuinness warned.

“This week Commissioner Oettinger – who is responsible for the budget – will come to the agriculture committee to explain the future financing of the EU, including agriculture policy.

The European Commission has just outlined options for the CAP in the post-2020 period, including the possibility of a 30% cut in funding. This is an alarming prospect for farmers, many of whom rely on EU support payments for their livelihoods.

“For farmers the most important issue for the future is securing a strong budget for agriculture,” she said.

Cutting the budget would also “fly in the face of demands” from farmers, who have been calling for an increase in the CAP budget at consultation meetings held around the country in recent weeks.

McGuinness outlined that there are calls for more spending on migration and security at EU level, with a realisation that new policies require new money.

“Equally in agriculture, there are new demands to be met – including climate action – yet there are insufficient calls for new funds to meet these challenges,” she added.

She said she will be putting this point to the commissioner this week, including giving him the feedback of farmers attending the nationwide CAP consultation meetings in Ireland.

Insufficient funding

Continuing, McGuinness stated: “Commissioner Oettinger is right to spell out the options for future financing of EU policies and to warn member states that if there are insufficient funds coming from member states then existing policies, including cohesion and agriculture, could suffer badly.

“The CAP budget supports sustainable farming and food production, high food safety and environmental standards; it also supports rural regions and it is vital for farm viability.

“While there are different views about the future share and orientation of the CAP post-2020, there is a very strong belief among many stakeholders that slashing the budget is not the way forward and would not just undermine farming, but also hit rural regions.

By spelling out the harsh realities of the budget situation, the commission is placing the responsibility firmly back on member states who hold the key to a solution.

The Irish MEP outlined that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has previously said Ireland is willing to consider an increased contribution to the EU budget, depending on how the money is spent.

“This is a welcome and important signal; but, we need other member states to also come forward and commit to a strong centrally-funded CAP.

“That means that countries must face up to the reality that more money is needed to fund the EU in the post Brexit scenario,” she concluded.

Legislative proposals on the future shape of CAP are due by June.