MEP Mairead McGuinness has told AgriLand that she will approach the European Commission to  see if some form of ‘soft landing’ can be secured for those Irish milk producers now facing the prospect of a swingeing ‘superlevy’ payment.

“I have tabled a written question on this matter to  Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos in tandem with my Dutch colleague Esther de Lange,” she added.

“We will be making it perfectly clear that milk producers in many regions of Europe will not be able to afford the levies imposed upon them. Up to now, the Commissioner has made it quite clear that he is totally opposed to making any changes at all to the current quota regulations. And it would be unfair of me to offer any hope now that this state of affairs can be altered in any way over the coming weeks.  However, it is incumbent upon me to do whatever is possible in order to help the cause of Irish milk producers.”

Commenting further on her priorities for the coming weeks, McGuinness pointed out that she will be analysing in great depth the Common Agricultural Policy Reform enabling legislation that will be enacted in Brussels before the end of March.

“This will flesh out the political agreements reached last June. Specifically, the legislation will put a legal framework around issues such as greening and the proposed young farmers’ support schemes.”

Significantly, McGuinness could not confirm if the European Commission will include a definition of what constitutes an ‘active farmer’ in the enabling legislation.

“Brussels has a problem with this matter,” she stressed.

“Many national governments would like to see the definition of active farmer linked to a specific stocking rate. However, Commissioner Ciolos believes this approach could put the EU on a collision course with the Word Trade Organisation.”

McGuinness also confirmed that she intends putting herself forward as a candidate in  the upcoming EU elections. From an agri-food perspective, she has two main policy priorities. The first of these is to ensure that all CAP Reform legislation is compiled in ways that best meet the needs of Irish farmers. In tandem with this, she wants to ensure that local farmers secure sustainable prices for the food they produce on an ongoing basis.

“And that means ensuring that all our food retailers play fair with farmers,” she commented.

“I have been very taken with the work carried out to date by the UK supermarkets’ adjudicator Christine Tacon. I see no reason why this approach  cannot be replicated here in Ireland.”