Carthy challenges EU Court of Auditors on call to tighten the grip on farm payments
Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, this week challenged the findings presented by a representative of the European Court of Auditors presented to a meeting of the European Parliament’s Agricultural & Rural Development Committee.
“Farmers will be very concerned to learn of the direction that the Court of Auditors would like to the take CAP delivery model. It aims to move to what they describe as “performance budgeting”.
“What this means in real terms is that farmers would be further at the mercy of the European Commission. The European Commission would set inflexible objectives that farmers would be obligated to fulfil. Any failures to meet these objectives would mean that support ceases. This would build a further level of anxiety and uncertainty into the lives of farmers.
“We have seen a 22% reduction in the number of farms in the EU over a seven-year period. And we will see another significant reduction if we discourage people further from entering the sector, by increasing uncertainty.
“I asked the representative from the Court of Auditors to clarify what he means by tying support to its level of “added EU value”.
“This concept is not defined anywhere at EU level, and he offered no further insight. The CAP treaty aims to ensure a fair income for farmers and maintaining the socioeconomic fabric of rural communities.
“But I would fear that these will not be given the deserved level of value when deciding support levels under the Court of Auditors suggestion and therefore I am hesitant to support tying programme funding to an undefined concept.
“The presentation was also at pains to point out that some farmers have an off-farm income. The presentation insinuated that the Commission is wrong when it says farm incomes are below the national average in other sectors.
“I reject any assumption that farmers have a big lump of money under the mattress that we need to collect data on. Farmers have an off-farm income precisely because farming is not profitable, and they are forced by circumstances to seek alternative work.
“More farmers would be able to live on an income solely from farming if they received a fair price for their product. In what other industry would it be commonplace to sell a product below the cost of production?
“I am disappointed that the Court of Auditors attempted to use this opportunity to play down the plight of farmers and call for a drip feed approach to supporting livelihoods and rural communities.
“As we move towards negotiations it is clear to see that the CAP budget will come under increasing pressure. It is imperative that countries like Ireland unite in calling for a fairer distribution of payments so as to protect our family farmers and withstand the attacks on CAP.”