“We are trying to make it clear to the taxpayer that farmers do more than just produce food. There are many things that farmers do that are good for society, but are not remunerated by the market.” That is according to Roger Waite, the European Commission’s spokesman on agriculture and rural development.
Speaking to AgriLand, the spokesman elaborated: “We feel with the greening and other elements, we hope it will make clear to taxpayers what farmers do. We hope there will be a greater understanding of the role that agriculture plays in the economy. What we are seeing is that the agri-food sector is one of the key areas of growth.”
Waite singled out Ireland in particular. “There is a dynamism in the sector that is not in other parts of the economy. So it is part of the solution to the economic crisis that we have seen,” he said.
Speaking on the state of play with the CAP Reform process at the moment he noted: “It has been a long journey. We feel we have got quite a good deal.”
Waite noted what was unique in this reform of the CAP was the use of co-decision between the council and parliament under the Lisbon Treaty. “It was a difficult and long negotiation.” He cited young farmers reform as an example of this involvement.
“Member states at council level were pushing hard that the scheme would be voluntary. But because the parliament said very clearly that we need to have this compulsory. The scheme remained compulsory. This is the clearest example of where co decision has made a difference.
“Similarly things went the other way too and the council won on some issues. We are pleased to say that all the main principals that we were looking for have been agreed. Maybe not as fast as we would have wanted. but all the principals are there,” he added.
Reflecting on the process so far, Waite said: “The reform came at the same time as the overall budget reforms in the EU.
“They were pleased that the CAP budget was not significantly reduced to a large degree … We managed to ensure that we have greater emphasis on innovation and sustainability.”
On direct payments, he said the Commission was keen to avoid a situation where a farmer, when thinking about what he will produce next year, looks to Brussells to see what subsidies are available. He should look to the market for direction, Waite noted.
He said: “In future direct payments will basically be paid on a per ha basis. In some countries there has been too much difference between what individual farmers are getting.”
Waite said in this reform “each member state has some flexibility in how they adopt the reforms”.
“The key point is with 28 member states a simple one-size-fits-all policy won’t work. We have come up with a basic solution but flexibility for members and we feel it will not distort competition.”
Waite highlighted the importance of greening is to make it, he said “absolutely clear” to the taxpayers that farmers use sustainable agricultural practices.
“This is something framers will do with a longer-term view. There are three basic measures such as permanent grassland, crop rotation and ecological focus areas.”
What happens now?
“There are still technical issues being discussed. We hope all the delegated acts will be finalised by early March, so that member states can decide before the 1 August exactly how they will implement the reforms.”