Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Questions (24)

Thomas Pringle


24. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his priorities for hill farmers under the new Common Agricultural Policy, CAP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5624/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In June 2018, the European Commission published the legislative proposals for the CAP post 2020. The proposals as drafted involve changes in a number of areas including governance and distribution of direct payments. These proposals are not yet finalised and are the subject of negotiations in Brussels.

Member States will have to prepare National CAP Strategic Plans setting out their planned interventions for the sector. There has been ongoing consultation with all stakeholders, including representatives of hill farmers, on the proposals and I can assure the Deputy that this will continue as the national CAP Strategic Plan begins to be developed.

A noteworthy feature of the proposals is their emphasis on the role agriculture has to play in helping Member States achieve their environmental and climate change targets. There is an increased environmental ambition for the CAP post 2020.

There are a number of new approaches to addressing environmental issues through the CAP including:-

- The mandatory provision of eco-schemes, as part of the Pillar I direct payments,

- The inclusion of greater environmental conditionality on EU payments with links to requirements such as the Water Framework Directive and proposals for mandatory nutrient management plans.

- 30% of the Rural Development Programme expenditure, excluding payments for areas of natural constraints, must be focused on biodiversity/environment/climate related measures.

- Three of the nine key objectives set for the CAP post 2020 concern the environment.

- An ex ante assessment for the plan must incorporate a strategic environmental assessment.

I believe that protecting the environment and the sustainable development of agriculture go hand in hand. Farmers play a vital role in the provision of public goods and need to be adequately recognised and recompensed for this role. It is important that the overall level of the EU CAP budget is maintained in order to recognise these public goods being delivered from all farmers, including hill farmers.