Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questions (437)

Brendan Griffin


437. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding reform of the single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11521/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The reform of the single farm payment arises in the context of the negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, where perhaps the most contentious issue is the question of how direct payments should be redistributed between farmers within Member States, by a process referred to as ‘internal convergence’.

The Commission has proposed a movement to a system of flat-rate national or regional payments by 2019. This would result in significant transfers between farmers in a number of Member States, including Ireland. These Member States are seeking a solution that will mitigate this impact. Indeed, Ireland has been to the forefront in developing an alternative model of partial convergence which, while consistent with the overall thrust of the Commission's proposal, results in a more measured outcome. We have been formally supported by five other Member States in this regard, while a number of others are also sympathetic to this approach. Other Member States - such as the newer Member States who already implement an area-based system - are seeking alternative solutions, while others still (including Germany) are happy with the flat rate system.

Last week’s Council of Agriculture Ministers broadly endorsed a package of measures tabled by the Irish Presidency aimed at achieving a compromise on this very difficult issue. This package included the option to implement the Irish model. The Council’s endorsement represented a considerable success for Ireland, which twelve months ago was alone in suggesting such an alternative approach. Further work remains to be done, but I hope that a final set of proposals can be agreed by the Council later this month.

There has been a good deal of comment in recent weeks about the state of play on this issue, and particularly in the aftermath of last week’s Council meeting. Much of this comment has been misinformed, and has been characterised by unhelpful speculation about the potential impact of the proposals on Irish farmers and on the agri-food sector generally. We need to retain a little bit of perspective. I would remind farmers - and commentators - that we are in the early stages of a two-phase negotiating process. We need to reach a compromise not just within the Council of Ministers but also, subsequently, with the European Parliament and the Commission. Ultimately, I believe we will find a solution that lies somewhere between the extreme of the Commission flat-rate proposal and the more measured Irish approach, because that is where the common ground between 27 Member States will lie. I will be working to ensure that that solution is as close to the Irish model as possible.