Agriculture and Rural Development Minister,
Michelle O’Neill has promised to be a strong advocate for local farmers
in the forthcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Publication of the CAP reform legislative proposals from the EU Commission is expected on 12 October.
Speaking at a joint reception with Simon
Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food at the National
Ploughing Championships in Athy, Minister O’Neill said CAP reform will
have major implications for the agricultural industry.
“This reform is hugely important and I can understand the concerns of
our farmers faced with an uncertain future, but I assure them I will be a
strong advocate for them. Many major issues will be up for discussion
and the outcome will be crucial for the agri-food industry.
“The EU Budget proposals for the period
2014 - 2020 were published back in June and although a budgetary freeze
on CAP expenditure at 2013 levels was perhaps better than could have
been expected a year or two ago, it still represents a significant
reduction by 2020 in real terms.
“I’ll not be supporting any calls for a
reduction in the EU agriculture budget and I will not support any
suggestion of a longer term move to a single EU flat rate payment –
there is simply no justification for this and it’s certainly not about
The Minister explained:
“Once the CAP reform legislative proposals are published next month, I
will want to engage closely with stakeholders throughout the
negotiations. I will be working closely with Simon Coveney on those
issues where we have common interests, engaging with our MEPs to factor a
‘Team Ireland’ approach and I also intend to consult personally with
the Defra Minister, and with the Ministers of the Devolved
Administrations to set down my priorities.”
The joint DARD - DAFF reception at the
National Ploughing Championships which this year marks its 80th
anniversary, 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
150,000 visitors, Minister O’Neill described the event as an impressive
showcase for agriculture. She said:
“This is the first 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.”