Hogan concedes that cuts to the CAP budget are ‘realistic’

Cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget are realistic, according to the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan.

Commissioner Hogan made the comments as he addressed an event organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) in Co. Kilkenny this evening which focused on the future of the CAP.

Speaking at the event, the commissioner warned that the scale of the challenge in relation to defending the CAP is “unprecedented” this time around.

“The European Commission is not like a national government – it cannot run a deficit, so we are bound by budgetary constraints.

“Meanwhile, Brexit is blowing a €12 billion hole in the overall European budget – and other priorities such as security, migration and defence have grown in prominence in recent years. Another €12 billion is demanded by many member states to ensure delivery of those policies too.

Therefore, in many quarters, the CAP is viewed as the obvious target for cuts. A commission discussion document published in February provided budget modelling based on different options – including a 15% cut or a 30% to the CAP budget.

Commissioner Hogan stated that both he and his team face an “uphill race” to protect the current budget.

‘We need to be realistic’

He explained that member states have the possibility to make up the shortfall by contributing a higher percentage of Gross National Index – a point which said he has been making “strongly” to heads of state and agriculture ministers across the EU.

But we need to be realistic; in the absence of more money from member states, there will be a cut to the CAP budget, and there’s no point trying to sugar-coat that fact.

“My job, as I see it, is to build the strongest possible coalition to resist the worst of these cuts, and achieve the best outcome in a difficult scenario.

“We have made some significant headway with a number of member states, but a number of countries which are net contributors to the EU budget – such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Austria – are still saying ‘no’.

“I have been to all four countries personally to make the case at the highest level. The next few weeks will be decisive,” he said.

Protecting small and medium-sized farmers

During his address, Commissioner Hogan outlined that his priority is to protect the European and Irish small and medium-sized farmer, who remains “the backbone of Europe’s food production and rural communities”.

Concluding, he said: “I have been making the case throughout Europe that this is about equity and fairness for our farmers, who provide our citizens with so many public goods.

The bottom line is that farmers’ incomes must continue to be supported. This is the role and duty of the CAP, as outlined in the founding treaties, and those treaty objectives remain as relevant today as they ever did.

“I also give you my word that I am doing everything in my power to protect the CAP budget. The CAP is a European success story, and I want that to continue into the future – but this success is built on farmers being rewarded for their work,” he said.