Next Spring will see Irish farmers complete their first round of applications for the new Single Payment Scheme (SPS). Let’s hope it’s a stress-free process!

Dacian Cioloş, the outgoing EU Farm Commissioned visited Ireland two years ago, at which stage he made it quite clear that he wanted to oversee the introduction of a less bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy. And, in truth, the jury is still out on this matter.

But, in truth, this micro analysis is merely tinkering around the edges, when one attempts to look at the bigger picture. One of the most fundamental flaws in the way that Europe goes about dealing with agriculture is the very fragmented nature of the management and control system now in place. For example, the Nitrates’ Directive, which was introduced under the aegis of DG Environment, has implications for every facet of farming throughout Europe. And, of course, all of the legislation concerning the importation and growing of GMO crops has been introduced by DG SANCO, the branch of the European Commission dealing with health and consumer affairs.

This latter point can be accepted up to a point. But it is fast becoming a fundamental reality that the CAP and environmental affairs are becoming closely intertwined. This is a direction of travel which Cioloş, himself, further endorsed, courtesy of his own reform package. Just think ‘greening’.

But he failed to grasp the nettle of closer co-ordinating agri and environmental affairs by calling for either an amalgamation of DG Agri and its environmental counterpart or – at the very least – signalling the need for a closer strategic relationship between the two organisations.

We already know that the decision makers in Brussels want EU agriculture to become more environmentally friendly. And, maybe this could be a good thing, provided that it does not take away from the food production focus which must always be at the very heart of our farming sectors. Having one agency drive these policies would seem a much more rational way of going about matters of this nature. Dacian Cioloş failed to move this matter forward. One wonders if his successor Phil Hogan will lift up the baton. After all, he is a former Environment Minister!