EU CAP budget negotiations progress ‘encouraging’

European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan has described progress on negotiations for increasing the EU agriculture budget as “encouraging”.

Speaking to host Claire McCormack on the latest episode of AgriLand’s FarmLand, the commissioner outlined his thoughts on the matter.

Asked on the likelihood of other member states contributing to EU budget, Commissioner Hogan was optimistic.

“We’ve got positive soundings out of 22 member states from a total of 27 member states; this is very encouraging – of course it has to be unanimous to get agreement on the budget so we are not taking anything for granted and we have to work close with the other member states that have a difficulty about giving more money to the European budget.”

He said that, over the next couple of months, prime ministers of each member state and the European Parliament will be discussing the matter intensively, adding that hopefully agreement will be reached by the end of spring.

On concerns over capping direct payment based on income levels and labour assessment, he assured: “There is only a small amount of farmers that are going to be affected in respect of my proposals to cap payments between €60,000 and €100,000 a year.

“What we are anxious to do is to redistribute payments in order to give a bit more money to the small and medium-sized farmer in order to keep them in business, keep rural areas viable.

“Our larger producers are able to get access to financial instruments and be able to deal with financial institutions better than small and medium-sized farmers in order to get working capital and loans over a longer period of time.

The commissioner said that the matter is still a proposal, and that he’s willing to listen to member states on workable alternatives for the same outcome.

This is available by devolving the responsibility to the ministers of member states to pick the capping level, he added.

“But, what I am really anxious to see if that we protect the incomes as far as possible of the small and medium-sized farmer and the family farmer in Ireland is about 56ha.”

Defining an ‘active farmer’

When asked what he thought is a good definition of an ‘active farmer’, the commissioner said that this depended on the country.

“Because the European Parliament and the European Council ministers in 2013 were unable to find a definition themselves of what constitutes the definition of an active farmer or a genuine farmer, we have decided to give each of the member states the opportunity to be able to define that particular type of farmer themselves,” he said.

The commissioner noted that the Greek Government and the Irish Government have a different view of what a farmer is.

He also said: “You have to take account of part-time farmers, you have to take account of people that have to supplement their income from other sources in addition to their farming.

“But, what we are anxious to do is to ensure that whoever is in charge of the land that it is farmed rather than just for investors from outside agriculture and I hope that each member state will be able to get a definition that is suitable to their local conditions in that respect.”