Decision time on CAP

All the signs are good that CAP Reform 2014-2020 will be agreed this week.

“Decision time has arrived,” said Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney TD in a statement this morning.

“Following the formal adoption of our respective positions in March, and after an intense series of trilogue discussions and parallel political contacts, an overall agreement is now within our grasp,” he added.

CAP reform is the only item on the agenda of the final meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers under the Irish Presidency. He will seek to conclude the negotiations in Luxembourg over the next two days that will set a framework for European agriculture for the rest of this decade.

According to the European Commission media centre, an announcement is set for 12.30 Wednesday.

The Minister said: “The meeting in Luxembourg will be a very focused one, with a challenging schedule. After initial exchanges with some member states on Sunday, Monday will be comprised of alternate council sessions and negotiations with the European Parliament aimed at reaching mutually acceptable solutions on the most sensitive issues that remain to be resolved. I hope that the Council and Parliament will be able to finalise a deal on Tuesday and Wednesday.”

In terms of process, the three institutions are entering uncharted waters as they attempt to conclude direct negotiations on CAP reform for the first time.

In addition, it is very clear that much work remains to be done on the substance, with outstanding issues across all four draft regulations. These issues include the distribution of direct payments within Member States, greening, sugar quotas, the operation of market support measures, the administration of areas of natural constraint, and financial and monitoring provisions.

Although the trilogues have been encouraging in terms of process, and the constructive approach to date of Member States and MEPs gives cause for optimism on the outstanding issues, the Minister stressed that the scale of the task cannot be overstated.

“I am keenly aware of the significant challenges we face over the coming days. We are all new to this process, and we have to reach agreement on a number of highly sensitive issues on which the institutions have very strong views. Nevertheless, we must approach the negotiations with optimism, we must be willing to be flexible and above all we must demonstrate a clear commitment and determination to bring the process to a conclusion. I am ready to play my part and I am confident that the European Parliament and the Commission are ready to play theirs.”

European farmers and the entire European agri-food sector were looking to the institutions to shape the future of the sector, and the Minister urged all concerned to rise to the challenge.

Meanwhile, the IFA President John Bryan and a delegation of national commodity chairmen will be in Luxembourg this morning for critical CAP Reform talks.

Bryan said the decisions made in the coming days would be the most important for Irish agriculture in a decade, and he called on the Agriculture Minister to hold his nerve.

“The March meeting of the Farm Council set aside the most damaging aspects of the Ciolos proposals and that outcome must be the basis for the overall deal. Minister Coveney cannot be distracted by calls for a conclusion to three years of negotiations. There can be no sell out of Irish agriculture.

“The Minister simply cannot allow a deal that will devastate productive agriculture. A mandatory minimum payment would destroy the minister’s own approximation model and lead to a level of redistribution that would be hugely damaging for Irish agriculture. The IFA remains opposed to this and other measures such as flattening, regionalisation or a co-efficient.

“As it stands, many farmers are facing significant cuts. The minister’s primary focus must be on defending Irish farmers and refusing to accept a deal that could disrupt productive agriculture even more.

“Since the Minister took office, he has latched onto Food Harvest 2020 and promoted it heavily. If he wants to achieve the targets in that plan, then the right outcome on CAP Reform must be delivered. Active, productive farmers will hold the Minister responsible for defending their viability.”

The Minister referred to the outcome of the March Farm Council meeting as a ‘watershed moment’ in terms of the flexibilities secured for Ireland. “If these flexibilities are lost, then it will be a watershed moment for his credibility as a negotiator. Minister Coveney must stand his ground and insist that the deal agreed at the March meeting, which did not include a minimum payment, is retained in the final outcome,” the IFA President concluded.

A colourful IFA protest is taking place this morning outside the Department of Agriculture on Kildare Street.

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