Hackett interview: ‘Negative CAP commentary is not good for agri sector’

The negative commentary from some quarters surrounding the budget for the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is not good for the sector, according to Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Pippa Hackett.

The CAP budget, and the EU’s targets for Ireland over the coming years, were among the topics discussed by Minister Hackett with AgriLand editor Jim Breen and news journalist Sylvester Phelan.

Speaking to AgriLand on Monday, July 27, Minister Hackett spoke about the outcome of recent negotiations on the CAP budget.

Last week, there was considerable coverage of the [proposed] next CAP budget. The European Council published two sets of figures – one showing ‘current prices’ and another showing ‘constant prices’ [i.e. either factoring in or ignoring the impact of inflation].

This has led to conflicting analysis – from both the media and politicians [with regard to how much the CAP budget has actually increased or decreased, compared to the existing 2014-2020 allocation].

Also Read: Table: How much CAP money is earmarked for farmers over the next 7 years?

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Dara Calleary is adamant that Ireland’s CAP allocation has increased – albeit by a small amount. Some commentators claim that this is not the case. What’s your view?

Minister Hackett: I think that negative commentary is not good for the sector on the whole. It’s not good, as well, for public opinion of the sector.

Ultimately, a lot of people in this country have lost jobs and have been on the Covid-19 payment for the last five months. Their lives have been turned upside down.

Farmers haven’t done too badly – ultimately – this year in the context of Covid-19; there haven’t been job losses to the same extent and they are essentially now getting a bit more than, maybe, they had [previously] expected from the future CAP.

I personally do feel that the negative commentary isn’t useful. I think we need to make it positive. We need to say ‘yes; we’re ready to embrace this; we can be leaders’. We will be leaders in this…and that’s just the way we have to go.

Also Read: Hackett interview: No point opening (forestry licence) floodgates without addressing issues

The EU has set out an ambitious 25% target for organic farming [i.e. 25% of agricultural land across the EU to be organic by 2030] as part of its most recent strategy papers. Is this realistic for Ireland?

Minister Hackett: We knew about the 25% organic target before the Programme for Government was set and, in those discussions, it was never that high anyway.

The Green Party manifesto had a 20% target…and I know manifestos can be aspirational as well, but we still did settle on reaching the EU average – within the term of this government – which is 7.5%. We are currently at around 2%, so [even] that’s ambitious. Feasibly, that can work.

You hear the argument that the ‘market isn’t there’ and so forth, but I do believe the market is there; we just need to tap into it.

On the 25% [EU] target, we might get there in the longer term; but that isn’t a commitment we [here in Ireland] have made to meet. There is also a resources element, in terms of the certifying bodies [needed] to assess the farms and get them through the process.

Our [Irish] target is ambitious, but it’s achievable.