Only through local decision-making can the Common Agricultural Policy be tailored best to suit the circumstances of the local industry, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle O’Neill MLA has said.
Speaking at a joint reception with Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine at the National Ploughing Championships in Wexford, Minister O’Neill strongly emphasised regional flexibility going forward.
Giving an assurance that as CAP negotiations intensify she would continue to promote local views on shaping the framework, the Minister said: “There is the need for an adequate budget, and for that budget to be distributed fairly. I will continue to argue for an adequate allocation both for Direct Payments and Rural Development measures.
“The move to a flat rate payment will also result in a substantial redistribution of support between farmers. A smooth and gradual transition towards a flat rate regime is absolutely essential to enable businesses to adjust to the challenges that this will bring.”
Turning to the greening proposals, the Minister said: “I am in favour of ensuring that the CAP continues to deliver environmental public goods. The issue is how we can ensure this in a pragmatic and achievable way. Farming across Ireland is predominantly grass based, with around 90% of land in permanent pasture. If this was the case across the EU, the proposals on greening would be significantly different, which illustrates the difficulties in trying to frame common EU proposals.”
The Minister also addressed the issue of the proposed definition of an active farmer which she said she had suggested an option to the Commission. She added: “I have also made positive suggestions relating to the greening proposals which would improve targeting and ease of implementation, and I would advocate changes in simplification.”
The joint DARD - DAFM reception at the National Ploughing Championships was attended by ploughing association officials from both north and south, representatives from local farming unions and rural bodies, government and agency representatives, members of the ARD committee and exhibitors on the DARD stand.
Completing a two-day visit to Ireland’s largest outdoor trade exhibition which annually attracts more than 180,000 visitors, Minister O’Neill described the event as an impressive showcase for agriculture.
She said: “This is the second time I have attended the exhibition and it underlines for me the importance of the agricultural industry to our economy, both now and in the years to come. It also serves as a reminder, if ever we needed one, that we must work hard to ensure that the viability of this industry is never undermined.”