The Common Agricultural Policy – CAP 2014-2020 will be signed Wednesday or Thursday next week.

This is according to Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney TD, who was speaking in Dail Eireann this afternoon.

Speaking in an Oireachtas debate, he said: “We have reached the end game in a decision-making process that we commenced in January at the start of our Presidency. I am flying to Brussels this afternoon which is one of the reasons I will need to leave questions a little earlier than normal – I also have a Cabinet meeting. I will meet the Commissioner tomorrow and the Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. Together we will try to map out a route to a decision by Wednesday or Thursday of next week, I hope.”

For the first time ever Ireland has been invited by the European Parliament to be part of the final European Council meetings on CAP 2014-2020 next week.

“We hope that on Monday and Tuesday in that Council meeting we will make substantial progress in agreeing the Council of Ministers final negotiating mandate taking account of the concerns of the Commission and the Parliament so that we will be in a position to go to Brussels to have a final trialogue next Wednesday, I hope, with the European Parliament to conclude a political deal on the Common Agricultural Policy, all going well. That could then be confirmed by the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, which hopes to have a meeting in the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday evening. That is the scheduling and process,” the minster stated in a reply to questions from Fianna Fail’s Deputy Eamon O Cuiv.

“The Deputy is very familiar with the key issues, including greening, internal and external convergence, young farmers, market management, crisis support, sugar, milk quotas and the other things. They are being addressed through four different regulations that are all being negotiated at the same time,” he added.

The Department planned for 34 trialogues to get to a landing zone or a compromise on all of these issues. It has 31 of those so far with the remainder under negotiation this week. 

“We are on schedule for a decision next week, I hope. We cannot take that for granted as much work remains to be done. However, we are on schedule and I would be hopeful we can get the job done before the end of next week.”

In the debate, the Minister also stated that he expects a minimum payment on the single payment will form part of the agreement. “The negotiation is on the level of that minimum payment, which obviously has an impact on the level of redistribution between farmers in terms of the internal convergence model that Ireland has essentially designed and has been accepted by the Council in principle and forms the basis of the compromise towards which we are now moving. I have spent much time with farming organisations discussing this issue. I hope the final agreed compromise is one that can allow Irish agriculture to progress in the way in which we want it to.

“Ireland is probably the only country seeking a reference year in the past rather than in the future. I do not understand why other countries are not as concerned as I am on this issue. However, I will continue to press for the setting of a reference year that does not impact on speculation or changed behaviour anticipating a reference year in 2014 or 2015. In March we successfully made the case for the option of a 2012 or 2013 reference year and I will continue to make that case up to the end of next week,” he continued.

CAP 2014-2020 is a common EU policy that helps to support European farmers in providing guaranteed access to safe, quality, traceable and sustainably produced food for 500 million European consumers. More than 26 million people work on farms across Europe, either full or part time. CAP is funded through the EU budget and, at €52bn/year, represents less than 1 per cent of EU GDP. For every EU citizen, the cost of funding theCAP is about €100/year. While the CAP comprised 70 per cent of the total EU budget in the 1970s, it has reduced steadily since, and accounts for about 40 per cent of the total EU budget today.

According to AgriAware, there are 140,000 family farms in Ireland. CAP funding, in the form of direct payments to farmers, is hugely important for farming and represents more than 70 per cent of farm income annually. This funding is used for expenditure on farm inputs and services. It underpins food production at farm level and supports the contribution of environmental services and landscape management by farmers.

The food produced by farmers and expenditure by farmers on goods and services in the local economy leads to employment in the wider agri-food sector and export earnings for the economy. The farming sector also underpins the rural economy and society, by improving the environment, preserving natural heritage and culture and supporting rural tourism. Farming, the food sector and related service industries deliver an estimated 300,000 jobs in the Irish economy. Irish agri-food exports reached €9bn in 2012, and are an important source of income for the Irish economy.

So, to put it mildly, everybody in the agriculture and farming sector in Ireland is awaiting the final negotiations with much anticipation. Indicators are Wednesday is CAP d-day. it’s nail-bitting stuff.

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