‘A disaster for farmers’: Farming groups slam proposed CAP budget cuts

Farming organisations have expressed alarm and disappointment at the options lined out for the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) by the European Commission yesterday, which included the possibility of cutting the CAP budget by up to 30%.

The list of options set out in an EU Commission budget document published yesterday suggested that savings to the overall EU budget to the tune of €60 billion could be made if the CAP budget was reduced by 15%.

This figures rises to €120 billion in savings with a 30% cut to CAP spending, according to the communication – unveiled by the EU Commission on its MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework) priorities post-2020.

Also Read: Mooted 30% CAP budget cut ‘would shut down agriculture’

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) and the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) have heavily criticised the announced options.

ICMSA

Commenting on the communication, the president of the ICMSA Pat McCormack described the options set out for the CAP budget as disappointing and completely unacceptable.

McCormack said the proposals, as outlined, would have to be strongly resisted by the Irish Government and like-minded member states.

He added: “What’s particularly disappointing is that there’s no sign here that the commission understands that CAP is a key EU policy not only for farmers, but for wider rural economies and how they interact with their national economies.

There’s no room here for equivocation: Any proposal to cut the existing CAP budget would be a disaster for farmers, the rural communities that depend on farming, and the wider agri-food sector which is a key driver of the Irish economy.

The president noted that, based on the proposed reforms of CAP, it appears that the EU Commission wants farmers to do more in terms of regulatory requirements – with a reduced budget.

“This simply will not work and cannot be accepted under any circumstances by our Government.

“It’s imperative that our Taoiseach uses the opportunity presented by the informal leaders’ meeting on February 23 to very clearly sets out Ireland’s position.”

McCormack outlined that this meant any reduction on the current CAP budget would be unacceptable, and any budget deficit from Brexit must be closed through increased member state funding.

“The Taoiseach has already stated that CAP is a key policy for Ireland’s interaction with the EU, he must now repeat that in a way that is unmistakable,” McCormack stressed.

ICSA

Meanwhile, ICSA president Patrick Kent said he is alarmed at soundings coming from Brussels that a reduced CAP budget post-2020 could be on the cards.

“Maintaining the CAP budget has to be an absolute priority and I would urge Minister Creed, Taoiseach Varadkar and Commissioner Hogan to vigorously oppose any such move,” he said.

Kent said he was horrified that reduced CAP spending would even be contemplated, given the challenges facing the agriculture sector.

The president said: “ICSA has been calling for an increase to the CAP budget to meet those challenges.

The pressure is on with Brexit uncertainty, international trade deals and an increasing onus on farmers with regard to climate change.

“It is unconscionable that any cut in CAP payments could even be considered,” Kent concluded.