Generational renewal and environmental ambitions will be among the key issues for consideration when it comes to securing adequate Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) funding, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

The minister was hosting a CAP event with Andrew Doyle, Minister of State and MEP candidate, today, Monday, May 20, in Portlaoise. The event was chaired by the justice minister, Laois-based Charlie Flanagan.

“The biggest issue that confronts us is securing an adequate budget for CAP; the Government is prepared to contribute more to the European budget on the basis that projects that are important to us – not least CAP – see that increased contribution reflected in the budget for agriculture,” he said.

“We get most of our receipts through the CAP but we are in fact, per capita, one of the highest net contributors to the European project – so we are prepared to contribute more.”

Meanwhile, the minister pointed to the “challenge” that was ahead for all member states in respect of the CAP budget.

It is challenging because a number of member states’ critiques of the proposals – that are already public – are on the basis that they don’t go far enough.

Minister Creed continued: “The budget – which is a function for the ministries of finance and heads of state – has to be agreed unanimously by member states. That’s a difficult challenge and one that will come to the fore later this year.”

Climate change

On climate change, the agenda in relation to that will be among the central issues, the two ministers acknowledged at this morning’s event.

“That’s undoubtedly a direction of travel that reflects the broader societal concerns and I think consumers across Europe have repeatedly said they are prepared to contribute more, also to the CAP, on the basis that it has greater environmental ambition. That’s something that we understand also from the market place,” Minister Creed continued.

Increasingly, consumers are asking those questions about our environmental credentials, so that’s a critical issue in terms of the budget.

He also pointed out that the content is going to be consequent on securing an adequate budget.

“It’s going to be about the environmental ambitions.”

New entrant incentives

Minister Doyle also spoke at today’s proceedings in Co. Laois.

He said that the next CAP would focus on areas like generational renewal, which Doyle added “is really important”.

“The age profile in the agricultural sector – and this is a global phenomenon – is quite high and we need to make sure that we have the appropriate incentives to attract new entrants into farming,” he continued.

Maintaining the CAP is absolutely critical. We’re going to have quite a bit of work to do, but on the basis that we secure it, how it’s distributed to active and progressive farmers is going to be really important.

“We want to get young people in; we want to get new entrants in if we want to reward people who are actually contributing through the environmental conditionality – this is going to probably be 40% of the CAP or through the productivity without linking and decoupling.”

Flat convergence

Minister Doyle went on to point out that attitudes would have to change if convergence of payments was introduced.

“We certainly have to not adopt the attitude that some have – that is for a straightforward flat convergence of payments simply for the sake of doing it. I’d be very wary of that,” he continued.

“It needs to be progressive and needs to be well considered before any moves are made in that direction.”

Before concluding proceedings, Minister Creed added: “Between Pillar Ι and Pillar ΙΙ the cuts now amount to over €90 million as published. Our endeavour is to make sure that we try and maintain the CAP budget at its current levels.”