Formal negotiations have yet to commence on the future of the CAP and in that respect there are no proposals as yet to change the calculation method of the single farm payment. However policy debates have begun in a number of Member States, including Ireland, and at EU level on the shape and direction of future EU agricultural policy. Among the issues that are being debated are the shape and format of the future single farm payment.
There is active debate about the credibility of the current historic payment model, based on average coupled payments received between 2000 and 2002, and the current differentiation of direct payment rates between and within Member States. In part this debate is about the distribution key for national envelopes, that provide the financing for the Single Payment, and in part it relates to the models used by individual Member States to allocate their national envelopes among individual farmers.
There is a view on the part of some Member States that the rates of payment should be equalised between Member States by applying an EU-wide flat rate. Some others believe that payments should continue to be differentiated according to historical uptake, land use, land quality, production costs and so on. A large number of potential payment models have been suggested in the formal and informal discussions to date.
As to my own position, I am opposed to an EU-wide flat rate payment and I continue to see significant advantages to the historic model. While this view is supported by some others, there is little doubt that the number of Member States that actively support the historic model is reducing. In this context, it is important that we look carefully at all the alternatives so that we can play a full part in the debate as it evolves. Some useful research has already been done on other payment systems but this work will need to be extended and intensified with greater stakeholder involvement.
In this regard I launched a public consultation process last July inviting interested stakeholders to let me have their views on what EU agriculture policies would serve Ireland and the EU best in the years to come. I was pleased with the number and quality of the submissions received. In continuation of stakeholder involvement, I intend to establish a consultative group to advise on the best policy options for Ireland in the forthcoming negotiations, including with reference to direct payment models.
It is very early days in these negotiations. I have already conveyed my overall position on the future of the CAP to the new Commissioner for Agriculture, Dacian Ciolos when I met him last month. I will be meeting with him again well in advance of any proposals being tabled to outline among other things my position as regards the type of payment system that will best serve the interests of Irish farmers. I will also continue to keep in close contact with my colleagues in other Member States on these matters. My overarching view is that first and foremost we need a strong and adequately resourced CAP after 2013. This is a point I have pressed strongly in discussions to date and for which there is good support in the Agriculture Council.