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Europe must act to help sheep farmers

7 October, 2008

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has said that Europe could use some of the billions unspent in the CAP Budget to develop a package to support our hard pressed sheep farmers.

Ms de Brún said:

"I recently highlighted the gap between what is available under the CAP budget and what will be spent, with an underspend of almost £2.9 billion in the CAP Budget this year. Even when the package to support farming in the developing world, the 'Food Facility', is approved there will still be over £2 billion in 2008 that could be used to make a real and lasting difference in some of our most hard pressed sectors.

"The sheep industry in Ireland is an important part of our farming heritage involving thousands of farmers producing an exceptional product that makes a vital socio-economic contribution to our rural communities. There is a difficulty for sheep farming in less favourable areas and for young farmers coming into the sector.

"Europe has set out its intention to take the bull by the horns and tackle the abuse of power by the large supermarkets with the Written Declaration on investigating and remedying this abuse and the establishment of a high level working group looking at the Agri-Food Industry. The simple fact that the return to the producer for sheepmeat, and indeed for many agricultural products, as a percentage of the retail price is just not enough.

"The EU Commission should do more to support direct sales by the producer and producer organisations in order to overcome the artificial manipulation of farmgate and retail prices. I would like to see the Commission develop programmes that encourage producer/marketing groups that can develop this direct marketing approach and also support farm innovation." ENDS

Note to Editors

Last week Ms de Brún highlighted an underspend of nearly £2.9 billion (3.6 billion Euro) in its 2008 Common Agriculture Programme (CAP) Budget.

The Financial Perspectives (FP) are financial ceilings for the period 2007-2013. The CAP budget is agreed annually by member states, based on the needs of the sector. Annual budgets may not exceed the FP ceilings. The CAP Budget in 2008 is some €3.6 billion less than the FP ceiling for that year.

The €3.6b unused margin between the CAP Budget and the FP Ceiling in 2008 will ensure that the Financial Perspectives are not breached even if, as expected, the Food Facility proposal is approved by the European Parliament and European Council and a margin of €2.95b would remain in 2008.

The Commission has already built in a specific protection for the CAP. The draft regulation provides that the amount proposed for the Food Facility each year must leave a minimum margin of at least €600 million between the CAP Budget and the FP Ceiling. This means that if the CAP Budget came within €600m of the FP ceiling, the Food Facility budget would be reduced until the margin is restored. It also means that the SFP is protected, because cuts in the SFP (degressivity) only kick in when the margin is reduced below €300m.

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