O’Neill responds to CAP Reform proposals
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill today made public her response to the EU Commission Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) Reform legislative proposals.
The Minister said: “Following the publication of the CAP Reform proposals on 12 October 2011, my Department has scrutinised the Commission’s proposals in detail and sought views from stakeholders, through both a formal consultation process and a conference. The Assembly Agriculture and Rural Development Committee has also been consulted. Our response to the proposals has been prepared taking due account of the views expressed during the consultation and I wish to thank our stakeholders for their extremely helpful and constructive input.
“I intend to present my response later this week to Georg Haeusler, Head of Cabinet of EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, at a meeting in Brussels. By presenting directly to the Commission, I am seeking to maximise our influence in the forthcoming negotiations.”
The Minister continued: “The detail of the response identifies a number of areas of fundamental concern, but also offers suggestions which I believe will provide better focus on the issues the Commission is seeking to address and will deliver significant simplification.
“First and foremost, of course, is the need for an adequate budget and for that budget to be distributed fairly. I am continuing to argue for an adequate allocation both for Direct Payments and Rural Development measures.
“The move to a flat rate payment will result in a substantial redistribution of support between farmers. I accept that a historic based payment system linked back to farming activities in 2000-2002 is difficult to defend. However, 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. The Commission proposals will not deliver this, so I have offered alternative proposals.
“The response contains a number of positive suggestions relating to the greening proposals which would improve targeting and ease of implementation. It also focuses on the issue of simplification and advocates changes, such as a reduction in the number of separate payments, in order to reduce administration costs and complexity for both farmers and DARD.
“Finally, regional flexibility has served us well in the past and I am strongly emphasising its importance going forward as it is clear that only through local decision-making can the CAP be tailored best to suit the circumstances of the local industry.”
The Minister concluded: “I would once again like to thank stakeholders who have been making such a valuable contribution to the CAP reform debate. I intend to continue my engagement with all the key players in the negotiations. This includes the EU Commission, Defra, the Devolved Administrations, the Irish Government and our MEPs.”