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Proposed CAP measures don’t contain enough of the radical reforms required – Carthy

1 June, 2018 - by Matt Carthy MEP

Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West Matt Carthy has said that the new CAP proposal announced by the European Commission today, Friday, do not contain enough of the radical reforms required. 

Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, said:

“The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) is hugely important for food security, environmental protection, rural development, and the future of the family farm model.  However, it has not been delivering as required.

“Each new CAP takes place in the context of fewer farmers, fewer younger entrants, and growing gaping inequalities.  The new programme should set out to change that.

“The proposal of the European Commission to devolve decision making to Member State level in many additional areas from 2020 will be a welcome opportunity provided there are clear unambiguous structures in place. But the proposals fail where they are required most – the gap in payment levels between the richest farmers and the rest has not been sufficiently addressed.  

“In my interactions with Commissioner Phil Hogan, and through my engagements at AGRI committee, I have reiterated the demands of the farmers I meet that a fundamental overhaul of policy is required to make it deliver for all farmers. 

“Objective reading of this proposal will tell those farmers that their demands have fallen on deaf ears. The Commission paper proposes to tweak the current system rather than deliver the fundamental rethink required to achieve a fairer and sustainable livelihood for family farmers.  

“It appears we are going to have a continuation of the system of historic entitlement leaving young farmers and new entrants at the mercy of the national reserve to secure supports. Bizarrely, the Commission’s solution to the underfunding of the national reserve is to implement a linear cut to the direct payments of all farmers.

“A more appropriate option would have been to target those minority exuberant payments that account for overwhelming slice of the CAP pie. A harmonisation of per hectare payments would deliver the equality necessary and provide adequate funds for young farmers to enter the sector. 

“The stated aim of proposal is apparently to ensure that payments are targeted towards active farmers. However, the criteria that farming is the main economic activity could make a bad situation worse for some. 

“We know that many farmers are engaged in off-farm work because they have no choice.  It is due to the unprofitability of their sectors and is symptomatic of the failure of CAP rather than an abundance of ‘hobby farmers’. We cannot countenance a further discrimination against those farmers who have been already failed by successive CAP reforms.  

“A maximum CAP payment limit of €60,000 would be welcome and supported by Sinn Féin – if it were real. As I revealed last week the proposal is riddled with loopholes that will allow many of the richest recipients to continue to draw down exorbitant payments while most farmers struggle to survive.  The current upper payment limit of €150,000 has been an utter failure as proven by this week’s reports that the top ten recipients in Ireland received direct payments in excess of a combined €2.18 million.

“The Commission has demonstrated today that it is not serious about creating a fairer CAP. The Commission has again opted for degressivity, a system that merely reduces payments above a certain threshold, not caps them. This has not worked for the 2013 CAP and with the new ability to deduct paid and unpaid labour; it will still be possible for big farmers and farming enterprises to earn above €60,000 and above €100,000. Hogan himself gave an example of a Bulgarian farm still being able to earn over €200,000 with the new rules. 

“The Irish government must champion equality in payments, knowing as they do, that this will result in greater supports for the vast majority of Irish farmers.

“For all of that, the proposal does contain measures with positive potential including the option of a redistributive payment to the benefit of small to medium farmers. It will also allow for up to 10% coupled support, which could be a mechanism to support vulnerable sectors such as the suckler herd. The proposal of a much needed new green architecture will be welcomed by many considering the failure of greening to have the desired impact and the level of bureaucracy it presented to farmers.

“Many will be sceptical about the decision in the new framework to make the pillar 1 environmental scheme voluntary. The impression given is that the new mandatory conditionality for pillar 1 payments will ensure that climate action is embedded in the basic requirements. However, it remains to be seen whether the measures will be more ambitious than before, or if they will simply become an additional layer of bureaucracy.

“Finally, we must face the fact that the commission is seeking a more ambitious CAP with a lower budget. That is simply impossible.  For the first time it is proposed that the CAP will fall below 30% of the EU budget; far below the 73% height. This at a time when the commission intends to increase overall budget.

“In that context, I fear that this CAP, unless radically amended, will again result in fewer family farms, fewer young farmers and poorer rural communities.

“Phil Hogan and Minister Creed will have unequivocally failed as representatives of farmers if they do not move to support the radical reforms necessary to deliver a better, fairer CAP.  That is what most farmers demand and it is what rural Ireland needs.” 

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