Threats to CAP highlighted at Tullamore Show

Brexit is seen as the ideal opportunity by many to make radical changes to the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) post-2020 – quite apart from the impact of the negotiations on the future of the single market for food and for the EU budget – according to MEP and first Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness.

Speaking as she performed the official opening of the Tullamore and AIB National Livestock Show yesterday (Sunday, August 13), McGuinness said such radical change must be resisted, given the importance of farming and food production.

The MEP noted that a large number of stakeholder responses to the commission consultation earlier in the year on the future of CAP have come from environmental organisations taking the view that CAP is ‘broken and must be fixed’.

Speaking on the topic, McGuinness said: “Such views will influence the future of the CAP both in terms of funding and detail. The commission is also of the view that the policy must deliver more for the environment and climate change, but there is very little clarity about how this will be achieved.”

McGuinness added that more targeted payments are called for, for specific environment and climate action. Simultaneously, there is a unified call for simplification of the CAP.

”These two demands are not compatible. More detailed programmes with specific delivery requirements involve inspections and controls and add bureaucracy rather than simplification.”

McGuinness said there needs to be a much deeper debate on how to shape the future of farming which moves beyond time-limited schemes which might not bring about time-enduring change.

She added that in the last CAP reform round, a major source of division and debate was the different levels of payments between different farmers and between member states.

“These issues will arise again as we debate the next round of the CAP – but it should not overshadow the challenges facing agricultural and food policy in terms of market prices, volatility and environmental pressures.

The future should be about ensuring that agriculture production systems are built on sustainability principles, both environmental and climate.

Economic sustainability is also important, the MEP said, noting: “Work must continue to highlight the critical role of Irish and European farmers in supplying high-quality food on a daily basis to consumers.”

CAP payments will continue to be important and the CAP budget must be defended against cuts, she added.

“The CAP makes shows like this here in Tullamore possible by sustaining a living countryside and a vibrant agriculture. I complement the show committee and all involved in making this massive show happen year in year out – the level of commitment and the voluntary effort involved is incredible.

The EU is facing many challenges, including Brexit uncertainty and the impact it will have on the budget, as well as ongoing migration issues.

Concluding, McGuinness said: “Ensuring a supply of quality food and a living landscape cannot be forgotten in an already crowded agenda.”