I have taken careful note of the submissions received from all the farming organisations and indeed from all stakeholders. They have been very useful in highlighting the main concerns and preferred options of the farming and wider agri-food sector. Of course, there are variations between the positions taken by different stakeholders and it is my job as Minister to steer a course that will deliver a policy that will be fit for purpose and that will underpin the future of Irish and European farming.
Let me remind Deputies that Ireland's priorities at the outset of these negotiations were to ensure in so far as possible:
- sufficient CAP financial resources to support sustainable food production in the EU and in Ireland.
- flexibility for Member States on farm payment models and transition arrangements, and
- a rural development policy that effectively supports competitiveness and sustainability.
I am pleased to state that substantial progress has been made in delivering on all these priorities. Although the MFF agreement has yet to be endorsed by the European Parliament, there is no question but that a substantial budget has been secured for the CAP, including in excess of €11 billion for Ireland over the coming period.
As to the other elements, next week in Luxembourg and Brussels, I am seeking to achieve political agreement between the three EU institutions on the CAP reform package in order to
- Deliver a rural development regulation that will provide the scope for Ireland to implement a rural development programme which targets support to Irish farmers to assist them in increasing their competitiveness and improving their sustainability; and
- Deliver a payment model that is fair to Irish farmers and supports sustainable intensification and active farming by ensuring a fairer distribution of direct payments while avoiding abrupt, large losses to higher paid farmers.