O’Neill vows to fight for a fair outcome in CAP reform
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.
She said: “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 fairness.”
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.”