Farmers urged to voice their views at CAP consultation meetings

Farmers should give their opinions on what changes are needed to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), according to MEP and first vice-president of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness.

The shape of CAP post-2020 could be quite different to the current one, with more control vested at national level, she added.

The MEP was speaking prior to a public consultation meeting on the future of the CAP that took place yesterday evening (Tuesday, February 13) at the Newgrange Hotel, Navan, Co. Meath – an event that was hosted by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

She said the move away from historic payments will continue; but, the debate about how to target support and link payments to environmental delivery is now to the fore.

Naturally the concern of the farming community is that the budget for the CAP is not eroded, leaving less money to support farming and our rural regions.

“We must watch very closely and work with member states to ensure that agriculture is not targeted for unjustified cuts,” she warned.

McGuinness cautioned against a focus on money only and called for attention to be paid to the application of the CAP at ground level.

“Giving more power to member states to adapt the CAP to meet specific needs is appealing; but, the impact of such a change needs to be teased out.

“I fully support Commissioner Hogan’s drive for simplification of the CAP at farm level and hope that the proposed reforms will meet this objective.”

Input from farmers

The MEP explained that this is why input from stakeholders – especially farmers – is essential.

“The published communication from the commission, which is on the table for discussion at the moment, sees member states shaping much of the detail to suit national requirements.

This was born from a desire to address the view that there has been too much central control by Brussels.

“In the current CAP, the so-called greening requirements were very much Brussels-led and have resulted in difficulties when it came to the practical application at farm level.”

She said stakeholders need to make their views known “and the window is relatively short with legislative proposals on the future shape of CAP due by June”.

Currently the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee is debating the proposals and drafting a response.

Brexit’s CAP budget impact

McGuinness said Brexit is looming large in the debate “with concerns about the budgetary impact on CAP and other policies”.

We will resist cuts to fund new policy needs like security and migration and support the commission view that new policies need new money.

“CAP is so intrinsic to providing a basic level of financial support to farmers that we must resist strongly any attempts to cut support.

“But, as policymakers, we need strong public support for that agenda,” she said.

Public consultations

Following consultation meetings organised by the Department of Agriculture that have already taken place in counties Carlow, Cork and Meath over the past two weeks, there are still three meetings to be held for discussion on CAP.

One will take place this evening (Wednesday, February 14) at the Bush Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. Minister Creed will be in attendance.

Meanwhile, next week, there will be a meeting in the Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone, Co. Roscommon, on Tuesday from 8:00pm to 10:00pm; another meeting will take place on Wednesday from 8:00pm to 10:00pm in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, Co. Mayo.

Both of these meetings will be attended by Minister of State Andrew Doyle.