Farmer definitions and budget key sticking points for post-2020 CAP

Definitions of young and genuine farmers, as well as the elephant in the room that is the CAP budget, remain key sticking points in ongoing negotiations for the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), according to Department of Agriculture officials.

Speaking before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine earlier this evening, Tuesday, July 2, Department of Agriculture assistant secretary general Paul Savage explained the main obstacles in EU discussions, as well as Ireland’s position.

Definitions

“We have highlighted our concerns to the Romanian presidency in the area of definitions – in particular for the young farmer, genuine farmer and eligible area,” Savage told the committee.

The genuine farmer has again proved problematic to reach agreement on and we consider the commission’s definition to be unworkable for us.

The department official informed the committee that Ireland has supported the presidency’s proposal that such a definition be voluntary for member states.

“For the young farmer we have supported the increased level of ambition by the commission to attract young farmers into farming and to encourage generational renewal.

“We see education as an essential requirement for young farmers but would like to see additional flexibility being provided to member states in order to set down further criteria as required.”

Savage said that his department wishes to see the top-up investment grant supports for young farmers – the 60% grant rates available under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) – be included as part of Ireland’s financial target for helping young farmers.

With regard to the 2% financial target to support young farmers, we are strongly of the view that we should be allowed to count our top-up investment grant support to young farmers as part of this 2%.

Budget

Turning to budgetary matters under the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) negotiations – and the proposed 5% cut to the CAP budget post-2020 – the assistant secretary general said Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has been working with EU counterparts to garner support to maintain the CAP budget at current levels.

“Agreement on the MFF post-2020 proposals is a necessary component towards achieving agreement on the CAP post-2020 proposals.”

He said that progress had been presented to member states under the Romanian presidency of the EU, which has now passed on to Finland.

The Finnish government hopes to present the first set of figures for member states to consider in October, he added – but noted that there are still “diverging views at this level”, further complicated by Brexit issues.

Time-frame

Savage said that the commission’s objective had been to have CAP proposals adopted by co-legislators in spring 2019; however, it was impossible to achieve this.

“Trial discussions between the council, the parliament and the commission will not commence until the council’s position and the parliament’s position have been agreed.

Until the position of the newly elected European Parliament is known, it is difficult to have a clear timetable for the CAP reform process.

“Agreement on the MFF post-2020 proposals which set out the EU budgetary allocations, is not expected to be achieved until autumn of 2019 and the Finnish presidency indicated its ambition to achieve that in its outline of its working programme yesterday.”

Savage said that the matter adds another layer of complexity to reach an agreement on the CAP post-2020 proposals.

“We still have some way to go before agreement on the proposals can be achieved.

We need to have some idea as to what the shape of the final proposals themselves will be before we can commit ourselves to undertaking a SWOT analysis and needs assessment required before developing our strategic plan.

“Nonetheless, the department is continuing to engage with stakeholders through the CAP consultative committee as well as through regular meetings with key stakeholders,” the official concluded.