Brussels will hear European farmers’ views on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in a conference taking place today, July 7.

It comes in the wake of a three-month consultation launched by EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan.

The conference will focus on the conclusions of the opinion-based consultation, which reached more than 320,000 people and organisations across the bloc, and will share the results of an evidence-based study carried out on the ground by the European Commission (EC).

Ahead of the conference, the President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), John Comer, issued a statement calling for the government to defend the current level of payments to Irish farmers.

He said there were reports the CAP budget would bear the brunt of the loss in UK contributions to the EU under Brexit and he expected those losses to be passed onto farmers.

“There is a valid argument that the EU is trying to do too much under the CAP budget and we see this very clearly on farms where we are regulated and inspected to distraction,” Comer said.

That could certainly be reformed and simplified but Ireland needs a fully-funded CAP; we’ve benefitted hugely from it and we still need it.

“If keeping a proper CAP means increasing the remaining member states’ contributions then Ireland must demand that is what happens.”

Higher prices

Earlier this week, Comer commented on “the alarming haemorrhage of people out of farming”, which he said would continue to increase and drive the corporatisation of food production within the EU.

“We will also see a massive inflation in food prices as food producers now have to try and recoup the losses to their already pressed incomes through hikes in price, and this will have to be passed on to the consumer,” Comer said.

“The single most important duty of the EU is providing high-standard, safe, sustainable and affordable food to its population; the means of doing that is the CAP and if that budget is to be attacked then, in the ICMSA’s opinion, the very fundamental reason for the EU itself is being attacked.”

Coveney in London

Meanwhile, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney, was in London this week to discuss the implications of Brexit and the border issue with British MPs.

Coveney said the UK’s Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis, had agreed in a “friendly and frank exchange” to visit the border region in Northern Ireland to hear the concerns of the people who are living and working there.

“I left him with no illusion about the challenges around Irish-specific issues on Brexit. I emphasised that protecting the gains of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts was of fundamental importance,” Coveney said.

Time is short but with good will across the board, and a fair and open-minded approach on all sides, sufficient progress can be made in the coming months.

“It’s in all of our interests to advance on the ‘exit’ issue so that we can move quickly to discussions on the future EU-UK relationship.”