AHEAD of the first agricultural council meeting of its presidency of the European Union yesterday, the Irish government made it clear they wanted to achieve their goal of setting the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) not in a series of small moves but as one package.
Irish farm minister Simon Coveney also made it clear his agenda included getting a good budget for the next CAP. “It represents good value for money. People should not take food security for granted”, he said.
Prior to the council meeting, Coveney met the leaders of the farmers’ lobby organisation in Europe, Copa-Cogeca, where he received support for his country’s determination to bring in an agreement on the next CAP during the six months the Irish hold the power reins in Europe. Cogeca president Christian Pees insisted that a speedy and positive decision was vital to enable an agreement on the new CAP in June. Such a deal would, he said, “allow farmers and agri-cooperatives to get on with their investment and production plans”.
Pees pointed out that, in addition to farmers facing increasing political uncertainty if no decision was made promptly, there was now extreme volatility on agriculture markets. He described this as one of the biggest challenges facing farmers and agri-cooperatives at the moment.
“Much stronger measures to better manage the market and to help farmers and co-operatives deal with the extreme market volatility are vital under the new CAP,” he insisted.
Pees also used the occasion of his meeting with the Irish minister to express Cogeca’s concerns about support flowing away from direct payment to farmers into environmental and rural support subsidies.
Looking to the future, he said direct payments would be more important than ever if the EU was to ensure food security, stability and sustainability.
Meanwhile, Scottish rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead took the opportunity to remind the UK government not to “overlook” Scottish priorities as CAP negotiations reach the final furlong in Brussels.
“It is vitally important that Scotland’s negotiating priorities are not overlooked by the UK government when it comes to striking a deal on CAP,” he said.
“In the next three months ministers are likely to come under pressure to reach a final agreement quickly and while it is good news that the process is not going to drag on, we must ensure that we get the right deal for farmers across these islands and not just south of the Border.
“Some issues such as areas of natural constraint are of huge significance to Scottish farmers with up to 85 per cent of our agricultural land falling into this category. In England that figure is nearer 15 per cent.
“So, while not getting a good outcome on that specific issue would be of little concern to the UK government, it is obviously a massive concern to Scotland and to the Scottish Government.”