Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Questions (52)

Pat Deering


52. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position with regard to discussions on the next CAP reform and the protection of the CAP budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5721/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The new regulations for the CAP 2021-27 were launched on Friday 1 June 2018 by Commissioner Hogan. The proposals, as drafted, involve significant changes, including in relation to governance, the distribution of direct payments among farmers and the increasing environmental conditionality attaching to such payments. These proposals are complex and we are now in the middle of intensive and challenging negotiations for the next CAP 2021-27.

Consideration of the CAP proposals is ongoing at EU level. Since the legislative proposals were launched in June 2018 a total of 25 Working Group meetings have taken place under the Austrian Presidency. The proposals are also discussed at the Special Committee of Agriculture meetings on a regular basis. In addition, CAP post 2020 is also a standing agenda item at every Agri-Fish Council meeting where I have discussed the CAP proposals extensively with my Agriculture Ministerial colleagues.

The Romanian Presidency has outlined an equally intensive programme of Working Group meetings to discuss specific aspects of the CAP proposals for the duration of their Presidency. I had a further opportunity to discuss the proposals at the recent Agri-Fish Council which took place on Monday 28 January.

The EU proposed CAP budgetary ceilings form part of the wider proposals on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2021-2027. These proposals are ultimately a matter for agreement between Ministers for Finance and Heads of State.

The MFF post 2020 proposals, outline a funding envelope of €365 billion for the Common Agricultural Policy. This represents an approximate cut of 5%, when compared to the current period. This is unacceptable for Ireland.

The MFF proposals also provide for spending in areas such as research, migration and defence, which are priorities for some Member States. The loss of UK contributions to the EU budget add a further complication to these already challenging negotiations.

Throughout these negotiations, achieving Ireland’s priorities will be a key issue for the Government. Ireland has stated clearly that it is important that traditional policies with demonstrated added value continue to be properly supported. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is such a policy and a strong budget for the CAP post 2020 remains a key priority for Ireland.

From an agriculture perspective, I have been working closely with EU colleagues to build a consensus around the need to protect the CAP budget in the next MFF. Given that MFF matters are decided by unanimity, it is essential to build alliances around critical goals.

With this in mind, I have had a series of bilateral meetings with EU counterparts, to build support for a strong CAP budget post 2020. Furthermore, In May 2018, I agreed a Memorandum, with five European colleagues, seeking to maintain CAP funding for the 2021 - 27 period at current EU 27 levels. I, along with my Ministerial colleagues from France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Finland, have signed the Memorandum. Support has grown for this position and up to 20 Member States have now expressed their support for this proposal.

Over the coming months there will be detailed negotiations at all levels across the EU as member states work together to shape the final outcome of both the CAP and the MFF proposals. I can assure the deputy that the need to ensure that the CAP is properly funded, and continues to support farm families and the rural economy, will remain at the very centre of our considerations.

I will continue to work to develop a broad consensus on the need for a strong and fit-for-purpose agriculture sector at the heart of the European Union.