Mooted 30% CAP budget cut ‘would shut down agriculture’

Proposals of a suggested 30% cut to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget “would shut down agriculture and rural Ireland”, Joe Healy, president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), has warned.

Healy indicated that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, are facing a big test in their talks with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, between now and the setting of the CAP budget in early May.

“Under no circumstances can Ireland contemplate any of the options set out in an EU Commission budget document published today, as they would shut down agriculture and rural Ireland,” he said.

This morning, the commission detailed various options – and their financial consequences – for a new and modern, long-term EU budget.

The document sets out a number of options for the CAP budget post-2020, including: maintaining funding at existing levels, which would represent 37% of EU budget; reducing support by 30%, which would generate €120 billion in savings; and reducing support by 15%, which would generate €60 billion in savings.

Speaking today, President Juncker said: “Budgets are not bookkeeping exercises – they are about priorities and ambition. They translate our future into figures.

“So, let’s first discuss about the Europe we want. Then, member states must back their ambition up with the money to match.

“And whilst we all need to understand that business as usual is not an option for this upcoming discussion, I firmly believe that we can square the circle and agree on a budget where everyone will be a net beneficiary,” he said.

CAP budget cuts ‘won’t work’

Meanwhile, the president of the IFA said it was unbelievable that the commission would even consider such options.

“This is a clear attempt to ‘soften up’ the European agri sector for a cut in the CAP budget and it is totally unacceptable and it won’t work.

Ireland cannot contemplate anything other than an increase in the CAP budget.

“The IFA has made a strong case for each member state to increase its contribution to the EU budget. This proposal has already been accepted by a number of member states and we expect the Irish Government to step up with a similar commitment,” he added.

The association is proposing that contributions to the EU budget from member states must increase from 1% to 1.2% of Gross National Income. This step must be taken to reflect the impact of Brexit on the one hand, and the improved EU economic conditions on the other, according to the IFA.

“Since 1990, the percentage of the overall EU budget that is going to the CAP has fallen from 70% to 38%. To contemplate any further cut would be a disaster for agriculture and rural Ireland,” Healy concluded.