Talks on the reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) failed to come to an agreement last Friday. The negotiations fell apart on the small hours of Friday morning as MEPs and European Agricultural Ministers could not agree on a number of important issues.
Both parties blamed the other for the result, MEP’s accused the Agricultural Ministers of being reluctant to change while the ministers claimed that the MEPs were too rigid in their demands.
The Irish Minister for Agricultural Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD spoke after the breakdown of the talks and expressed his disappointment;
“ The last few days have been very challenging. For its part, the Council has shown a willingness to negotiate and to seek a compromise that will allow the new CAP framework to be finalised."
He added that;
"Our farmers need this, and time is running short if we are to have it in place by January 2023 – the alternative does not bear thinking about. However, we must ensure that we deliver a CAP that will have the maximum flexibility for us to make our own decisions.”
He continued by detailing the the difficulties of the negotiations;
“It is clear that the two sides remain some distance apart on a range of issues, including conditionality requirements, the targeting of support (including internal convergence and mandatory redistribution of direct payments), the ring-fencing and expenditure of eco-scheme funding, and the social dimension. These issues are complex and difficult to resolve and will require compromise.”
The minister concluded his statement by reiterating this continued interest and commitment to achieving a resolution to the talks.
Political tension has risen in recent days over the government's handling of the process. The largest opposition party Sinn Fein have criticized the minister's stance on the key issue of convergence.
Convergence is a move that would reform the direct payments farmers receive from Europe. Most EU countries already have a new system of a flat rate per hectare.This would largely benefit smaller to medium size farmers.
Currently direct payments have benefitted large farmers. In recent days the department of agriculture has published a list of the beneficiaries of direct payments from Europe.
169 farmers received in excess of 100,000 in payments from Europe with 25 of these coming from Cork. Waterford received the highest average payment at 15,496 and Leitrim recorded the lowest amount of payments with an average of 6,545.
McConalogue was in favour of convergence during his time in opposition and it is not surprising as it would benefit many of his constituents. Since entering government the minister has changed his position and has been arguing against convergence during the CAP reform talks.
The conflict can be see in the reaction of two farming groups.The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) is as of 2018 the third biggest lobby spoke out against convergence saying;
“The Irish government has always said that it fully supports family farms.This will not be the case, however, if we see a blanket move towards 85% convergence, where the basic payment is concerned.”
Alternatively, Colm O'Connell, president of Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA).said that;
“In relation to the CAP reform I firmly believe in the need to embrace the proposals for ideally 100% convergence.”
It is clear that the issues around CAP reform will continue as all parties try to work towards a resolution. It is hoped that the CAP deal can be completed before Portugal hands over the presidency of the European Union this month.