Sinn Fein MEP Chris MacManus, a member of the European Parliament’s negotiating team on the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) package, estimates that “we are looking at a final agreement in the next eight weeks”.

MacManus said that the current timetable is to reach an agreement by the end of May and although they are on track to meet this target, his concern “is what kind of agreement we will walk away with”.

‘CAP offers us opportunity to put this money back’

“I will only support the final text if it delivers on key areas for Irish farmers, primarily the guarantee of a fair standard of living,” the MEP said.

“The council’s current position of 85% convergence is insufficient to rebalance the scales between those on high and low entitlements.

“My position is that we must complete the process of full convergence by the end of the programming period.

“The European Parliament negotiating team backs this position, but in these final weeks they will have to face down increasing demands for comprise by the council.
“I am aware some family farmers will lose money through full convergence, but the new CAP offers us the opportunity to put this money back and more, through targeting them for increased support when divvying up the new redistributive payment.

“They can be assured that I would not advocate for any proposal which would result in a net loss for small to medium farmers, as they represent our most socially and environmentally sustainable future.“

Young farmers

“Another group in need of extra targeting [is] our young farmers,” MacManus continued.

“I fully agree with the demands of Macra – a 4% ringfencing minimum for young farmers.

Generational renewal is a ticking time-bomb for the sector. Now, dairy prices are strong and this can incentivise more young people to enter the sector, but we must remember start-up costs can be massive, and this level of debt leaves new and young farmers very exposed.

“The CAP must therefore provide a fair level of aid to them, as a buffer against price shocks.“

MacManus added that the additional environmental ambition in the CAP reform “is not necessarily something to fear – as long as the schemes are well designed, meaning profitable, impactful and straightforward”.
“I would call on all farming representative organisations to begin preparations for these discussions at national level – we must take full advantage of the new CAP’s flexible model, to deliver a programme fit for purpose, whether you are in Dungloe or Dingle,” he concluded.