The President of the Irish co-operative movement ICOS (Irish Co-operative Organisation Society Ltd) Bertie O’Leary said there were positives and negatives for Irish co-operatives to take from CAP 2014-2020 negotiations.
“We are delighted that our concerted campaign to delete proposals for dairy quotas by the back door has been successful, but difficult issues remain for co-operative based Irish agri-business in a hard-fought reform of the CAP,” he said in a statement to AgriLand this morning.
“ICOS policy on CAP was to focus on the neglected single common market rule aspects of the deal, with issues of vital importance for the growth of Irish co-operative agri-business both domestically and on key export markets.
“To this end we made great efforts to block proposals on dairy supply management. We also focused on improving the ‘tool box’ to help our industry combat market volatility, such as private storage aid rules, intervention rules and risk management,” he added.
The ICOS president also acknowledged the work of Minister Coveney and his team in the Agriculture Department for working constructively with ICOS during the complex negotiations process. “We look forward to continuing that,” said O’Leary.
ICOS welcomed the strict rules on the formation and protection of producers organisations, he noted. “This will hopefully protect the co-operative model that has been at the heart of farmer controlled Irish agri-business for over a century.”
A high-level conference on milk is proposed in Brussels for 24 September.
On internal convergence, O’Leary said the ICOS policy has always been to “reward the active co-op member, who produces the most for, and purchases the most from its co-operative”.
ICOS has long supported the Minister’s approximation approach, but O’Leary said that the agreed 60 per cent minimum payment figure “will cause problems, with €103m being transferred from some of our most productive producers”.
O’Leary acknowledged the Minister was faced with a Commission proposal that, up to recently, was looking for a minimum payment of 75 per cent of the average per hectare payment, which would have been “disastrous for productive agri-business in Ireland”.
The ICOS President welcomed the compulsory top-up payment for young farmers in Pillar I saying: “The future of the co-operative movement is dependent on young farmers regenerating our membership and our board structures. We supported our colleagues in Macra in calling for this since the outset of negotiations.”
On Greening, O’Leary said ICOS policy was always to concentrate on making it a win-win payment for co-operative farmers. To that end the organisation pushed for ‘grassland maintenance’ to be at the heart of the proposal. “We also are happy that proposals for ecological focus areas and crop rotation will be workable in the future for Irish agriculture.”
“What I do fear though is that the whole greening principle will be a Trojan horse that will be used to put unbearable burdens on productive agri-business in the next reform.”
On Pillar II payments, O’Leary underlined how vital they were to underpin farm family incomes in many areas. He hoped that new Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) and Agri-Environmental schemes, that will be designed by the Department of Agriculture in the aftermath of this reform, will be fully co-financed and targeted at sectors with most need.
Within rural development proposals he welcomed the inclusion of the ‘Co-operation’ Article 36, which he hoped could promote a new wave of rural co-operatives in Ireland.
In conclusion O’Leary stated; “As one of the few organisations that has a permanent presence in Brussels, during the course of the CAP reform we have been at the heart of detailed and complex negotiations since the beginning of this process.”
ICOS hopes to meet Commissioner Ciolos for further clarification of the detail of proposals in Brussels when he is scheduled to meet key European farming and co-operative leaders.
ICOS represents co-operatives and organisations in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts – whose associated businesses have a combined turnover in the region of €13bn, with some 150,000 individual members, employing 12,000 people in Ireland, and a further 24,000 people overseas.