Jury still out on CAP proposals; but flexibility noted

Future direct payments for Irish farmers were the focus for Mairead McGuinness on Friday (June 1), following the publication of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform proposals post-2020.

The MEP and First Vice-President of the European Parliament said the detailed legislative proposal “will require study and analysis” to determine whether or not it meets the objectives set out by EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan.

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“These proposals move away from direction from Brussels and hand back considerable control to member states to determine detailed national plans – including flexibility to define who should receive direct payment supports,” she said.

‘Genuine farmers’

“The proposals call for money to be targeted towards ‘genuine’ farmers – each country will have to decide what constitutes a genuine farmer – which is likely to be more stringent than what applies today.

“In addition, member states must establish detailed implementation plans with significant flexibility built into the system,” said McGuinness, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture.

While there is no clarity on the budget for the CAP post-2020, the key for Irish farmers is that the budget is maintained and that proposed cuts in the overall allocation to Ireland are resisted, McGuinness added.

“On distribution of payments between member states, there will be a continuation of the movement of money from the older to the newer EU countries – which started in the 2013 reforms.”

There is a risk that Ireland could be impacted by this, she added.

“The proposal is to close 50% of the gap between EU aid levels per hectare and 90% of the EU average. It is not clear from the proposal if this will also apply to internal convergence within member states, with a redistribution of payments between farmers.

“The European Parliament supports a move away from historic-based payments and a fairer distribution of payments between farmers, but it is not clear if this will mean a move towards a flat-rate payment per hectare and if this will be done in the short term,” the MEP said.

More clarity is needed for those farmers who may be expecting an increase in payment and those who are likely to see their payments reduced.

This is another area where member states will have flexibility, she said.

“Member states can cap payments between €60,000 and €100,000, with account taken of labour charges.

“Any monies freed up will be redistributed within member states, either through a redistributive direct payment of rural development to ensure that a higher share of each country’s direct payment allocation goes to small and medium sized farms,” said McGuinness.

Flexibility

Again, member states will have flexibility, the MEP stressed.

“The proposal to give member states more control on the details of the national plan is innovative; but it is not clear if farmers or member states are enthusiastic about this.

“In the past ‘Brussels’ was blamed for the details of the CAP. If these proposals go ahead, it will be member states who will be responsible and accountable.”

The proposal will be debated by MEPs at the European Parliament over the coming months.