‘No option’: 15% cut to Pillar II budget necessary

The European Commission was left with “no option” other than to cut the Pillar II budget under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) by 15%, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, said.

Commissioner Hogan made the comments as he announced the commission’s legislative proposals for CAP post-2020 this morning.

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Addressing those present at a press briefing in Brussels, the commissioner said: “On Pillar II, there is a 15% cut for every member state; everybody is treated equally in relation to this cut.

We had no option because of the financial situation. But, there are a number of ways in which this cut can actually be removed or restored.

“Number one is if European member states decide to put more money into the European Union budget.

“Over the next year they will be able to discuss this and they will be able to establish what their political priorities are.

“If they feel like agriculture is their big priority – like many of them said in Madrid yesterday – I will be very happy to see more money coming into agriculture and we can restore some of the cuts made or eliminate them,” he said.

Continuing, he outlined that the second option available is for member states themselves to put more money into rural development – which is a move that the commission has no problem with.

“You can’t do it in Pillar I; but, you can do it in Pillar II.

Thirdly, we have a 15% transfer in the proposals from Pillar I to Pillar II for rural development purposes – which is another way in which they can fill this gap and show what level of political priority they are giving to Pillar II.

“So there are various ways of restoring this,” Commissioner Hogan explained.

Schemes that could potentially be affected by a 15% cut to Pillar II funding, include the:
  • Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme;
  • Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP);
  • Knowledge Transfer (KT) Scheme;
  • AEOS (Agri Environment Options Scheme);
  • GLAS (Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme);
  • Organic Farming Scheme (OFS);
  • TAMS II (Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme);
  • Sheep Welfare Scheme.

CAP budget concerns

After proposed cuts to the CAP budget post-2020 were announced, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, expressed serious reservations.

Speaking previously to AgriLand, he said: “The level of funding cuts envisaged for Pillar II is really worrying; 15%. It is being dressed up that we can make up the shortfall through Exchequer contributions; but, that could be the beginning of a slippery slope to dismantling the CAP.

“In other words, member states with deep pockets can co-fund Pillar II funding more than other member states can. That is one of the areas where I would be concerned in the context of the announcement.”

Yesterday, Minister Creed attended a “mini-summit” in Madrid, Spain, where a number of EU ministers against proposed cuts to the CAP budget met to discuss their respective positions.

Put simply, it’s not reasonable or fair to ask farmers to do more and more and more in terms of all the things that we demand and expect from the CAP and the public goods that we require, for less and less financial support.

“That is the essence of the message that I think will resonate with not just farmers – but also with the citizens of Europe.”