A deal on the continuation of the EU Common Agricultural Policy has been reached. After months of tense and often fractured debate the negotiations scame to an end last week.The deal was ratified by the council of agricultural ministers on Monday.
The new Common Agricultural Policy deal runs until 2027 and takes up almost a third of the EU’s multi year budget.It provides 270 billion in aid to farmers with 10.7 billion coming directly to Ireland. It is the life support that many farmers and farming communities rely on.
The conflict during the negotiations centred around the need to fall in line with legally binding climate goals supporting the move away from industrialised farming to smaller holdings.
Payments will now be linked to minimum environmental rules such as rewetting peatlands and crop rotation.The bone of contention surrounds how much of the budget must be allocated directly to eco-schemes.
The European Parliament voted for 30% of funding to go towards eco-schemes; this was rebuffed by the European Council of Agricultural Ministers to promote a ring-fencing of 20%.This caused a breakdown in negotiation for a brief period in April. A compromise was reached to gradually increase the amount incrementally each year to reach 25% in 2025.
There will also be a redistribution of payments known as convergence, most European countries already have this in place. Payments will be given as a flat rate per hectare benefitting smaller and medium size farmers.
The EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski has described this deal as “positive” as it moves away from the race to increase production that has been evident in European Agriculture for the past decade. Many had hoped that this deal would go further but this believed to be the extent the deal can go to be ratified at both a european and national level.
The response from farm leaders in Ireland has been very divided. Larger associations have expressed their anger and displeasure at the deal with the Irish Farmers Association has said that this deal “will potentially devastate” the income of one group of farmers. The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association has stated that “There’s spin out there that some farmers will gain under the agreement, ICMSA believes that all farmers will lose”
Smaller farming groups have also responded to the new deal. The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) has said that the deal “will please nobody”. The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) declared the deal
“will lead to a fairer redistribution of payments”.
The divide will undoubtedly be a challenge to the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.The Minister released a lengthy statement on the deal in recent days; “I am delighted that it has finally been possible for the EU institutions to come to a political agreement on the future CAP, after three years of negotiations. The agreement represents a reasonable balance between the views of the Council and the European Parliament - neither institution got everything they wanted, which is the nature of negotiation and compromise. Ultimately, this deal offers our farm families security that an effective CAP framework will continue to 2027.”
Ireland must now complete a strategic plan on how they will use this money to the European Commission by January 1st 2022. The minister has said that he plans to listen to all parties and placed special emphasis on farming families; “I will bring this CAP deal to the farm families of Ireland. It is very much their CAP, and I want to hear what their inputs are. My Department will be faced with the significant challenge of configuring IT and administrative systems to deliver the new schemes. Of course, as we make this journey together, we must ensure that the supports that are available under Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 are distributed in both an effective, and a fair, manner. I think the tools are now available to do so, and I look forward to all of us working together over the coming months to design a CAP Strategic Plan that is right for Irish farmers, and that helps to secure a sustainable future - economically, environmentally and socially - for Irish agriculture.”
While the long negotiations for this deal have come to an end at a European level, they will now continue in earnest at a national level, bringing agriculture to the forefront of Irish current affairs