McGuinness: ‘Climate shaming farmers is wrong’

Climate shaming is wrong and farmers are being unjustly targeted in this regard, according to the First Vice-President of the European Parliament.

Speaking in Kilkerrin, Co. Galway, at a farm lobby group’s AGM, the Midlands-North West MEP, Mairead McGuinness, said: “While farmers do have an important role to play as we find new strategies to deal with climate change; I am concerned that they are being unfairly targeted on the climate change problem.”

Speaking at the meeting, McGuinness emphasised that the suckler herd is an issue of critical importance and said: “It is top of the agenda right around the country as the price of finished cattle in the factories has fallen.”

At the meeting, farmers stressed the importance of the live-export trade for cattle and the importance of maintaining and expanding outlets for both live cattle and beef.

CAP reform

Commenting on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), McGuinness said it will “refocus support on greater environment delivery”.

An REPS-type scheme which supports environmental actions with an appropriate budget is something that I would support.

“The new CAP will require countries to draft a strategic plan for the agriculture sector.”

Continuing, she explained: “This is an opportunity for a robust land use policy to be developed, including a focus on agriculture, forestry and the environmental aspects.”

She said a new agri-environment scheme in Pillar I will be mandatory for member states to offer to farmers and under rural development, environmental schemes will need to be additional to what’s called for in Pillar I.

“It’s vital that we do not complicate the system of supports to the agriculture sector and this is a focus of my work in the European Parliament’s agriculture committee.

She said that capping payments, redistributing payments and further convergence are “high on the agenda”.

However, the MEP said there will be a delay on the introduction of the new CAP, which is due by 2021.

The process of negotiating the new CAP is ongoing in the parliament but will not be completed before parliamentary elections in May.

She said it will be up to the new parliament and commission to complete the process, but the essential elements of the new CAP are “unlikely to change”.

“A key issue is to ensure there is a sufficient budget for the CAP and uncertainty remains about the level of the budget as a small number of countries continue to question their financial contribution to the budget.”

Brexit

Commenting on the ongoing issue of Brexit, McGuinness said: “If there is a hard Brexit, the budgetary consequences will be significant.

“It is therefore in all our interest, the UK and the EU, to ensure that the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified and we start negotiating the future relationship with the UK,” McGuinness concluded.