The importance of a well-funded Common Agricultural Policy (CAP ) after 2020 dominated discussions in Athlone during a recent meeting between the first Vice-President of the European Parliament, Ms. Mairead McGuinness MEP and IFA representatives from the Midlands North West.
Discussions also took place on the overall EU budget and CAP reform proposals.
The MEP told the IFA delegation that the European Parliament fully supports a well-financed CAP and has called for the budget to be at least maintained at current levels for the next programme period due to start in 2021.
"The Parliament wants to see these negotiations completed before next year’s European elections, perhaps even before the end of 2018,” she told them.
The MEP reiterated that the CAP budget should not be reduced. The European Commission has proposed a five percent cut to the overall CAP budget from 2021 onwards, with rural development (Pillar II ) taking a 15 percent cut compared to the current period of 2014-2020.
Ms. McGuinness emphasised that cutting the CAP budget was “not acceptable and unwise.”
She highlighted that Member States will have to increase their financial contributions if there are demands for new policy areas, such as migration and security.
"We absolutely need to have an ambitious and efficient CAP able to meet the EU's environmental obligations and withstand market disturbances,” she said.
"Any cuts to the CAP budget directly cut farm incomes in rural Ireland and rural Europe and this is not acceptable, especially given the weather challenges and fodder pressures which farmers are under.”
She said the meeting was timely given that discussions on the future of the CAP are taking place in both the European Parliament and Council.
Agricultural Commissioner Phil Hogan proposed his new direction for the CAP on June 1, in which the Commission proposes to give greater flexibility to Member States to devise rules on who receives CAP payments, how to achieve better environmental delivery and advancing rural areas.
“We can expect long and intense discussions,” Ms McGuinness said.