Thursday, 15 July 2021

Ceisteanna (1)

Matt Carthy


1. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the planned framework for developing the CAP strategic plan; the redistributive measures he plans to pursue within the flexibilities provided; and if he plans to submit the plan to the Houses of the Oireachtas for amendment or approval. [38153/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (34 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Minister is running out of places to hide on the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP. It is getting to the point where he will need to tell us what his position is. He said he is going to carry out a consultation on the CAP strategic plan. I would appreciate if he would outline the format and the timeframe that will take, as well as whether he is willing to put the on record of this House his proposals and his position on further redistribution measures.

I thank the Deputy for the question. It is a bit rich to be talking about hiding. Every time he talks about convergence, I do not see too many Sinn Féin Deputies from certain parts of the country fronting up, or in his company. However, I thank the Deputy for the question.

These are the first oral questions since the agreement last month, which was really important. It happened at the end of June when the Council of Agriculture Ministers reached political agreement with the European Parliament on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. It is a fair, farmer-friendly and, critically, a flexible CAP deal. The agreement strikes the right balance in seeking to ensure a fair distribution of payments between farmers, while also supporting the agriculture sector to achieve a higher level of environmental and climate ambition.

Significant flexibility is given to member states to achieve this, in accordance with their own national circumstances. This flexibility was one of my key objectives in the negotiations. I am pleased to have secured flexibility to best serve our farmers.

Specifically, on the targeting and redistribution of payments, the agreement provides for voluntary capping of direct payments at €100,000, with member states also free to reduce payments above €60,000 by up to 85%, a policy that I fought very hard for. Internal convergence of payments will continue with each entitlement value to reach a minimum of 85% of the national average value by 2026. A mandatory redistribution of 10% of direct payments funding to small- and medium-sized farmers is also provided for, with a derogation for member states where they can demonstrate that their redistribution needs can be satisfied by other measures in Pillar 1.

I will consult widely with farmers on how we best apply this flexibility to address these issues at national level. The overall draft strategic plan and draft environmental report will also be subject to a further statutory public consultation and environmental assessment later this year. I will continue to update the Oireachtas this in this regard, including through the Joint Committee-----

I thank the Minister-----

-----on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, over that period. Government approval will be sought-----

Go raibh maith agat. A Theachta Carthy.

-----before submitting the plan to the European Commission by the deadline of 1 January 2022.

I can assure the Minister Sinn Féin's position on these matters is the same across the State. This stands in stark contrast with the Minister’s party. His position was often nuanced, depending on where exactly he was. He has, as he rightly said, fought for flexibility. I have always been sceptical, in that I believe he is using that as a turn of phrase in order to fight against any redistributive measures. I hope he proves me wrong when we see the outcome. I hope that we see further convergence. That will be the test, whether he introduces convergence measures quickly, and at the early part of the next CAP. That will be the test, whether he ensures that we have front-loading.

The Minister has not outlined the timeframe as to when the consultation process will take place, when it will be concluded and when he will publish the CAP strategic plan. He still has not committed to bringing the CAP strategic plan before this House, considering that his big sell at EU an level-----

The Minister to respond.

-----was for national sovereignty. This is a real opportunity for the Minister to put his money where his mouth is.

This Government is sovereign and is elected. It makes these decisions on behalf of the country. Importantly, in doing that, I will consult first and foremost with the farming community. This is something Deputy Carthy did not want to do. He wanted Europe to dictate what should be happening. Over the last number of weeks, he advocated for that to be done. That contradicts the stances Sinn Féin takes on many other issues. I have always said that I want to bring this to farm families across the country, and that is what I will do. I will consult widely with everyone in the political system, through the joint committee and by having a debate in the Dáil. The Government and I, as Minister, will ultimately decide on that after consulting widely with everyone, and that is the way it should be.

I have heard Deputy Carthy in different parts of the country and in my own county talk about how Sinn Féin takes a nationally united stance on this. He proudly stands up and declares this, in places like Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan. However, Sinn Féin Deputies are absent in other parts of the country from similar meetings. It would be interesting to see how over the next couple of weeks he will follow up with that. Even in the Chamber-----

Minister, you are over time.

-----we see Sinn Féin Deputies from certain parts of the country absent from the debate.

This will have significant implications for farm families of the next seven years. It is important that this is brought them, fully debated and examined. I am glad to have brought that flexibility back home so that we can-----

The Minister can ignore the Chair, but it is not good practice. I ask both the Deputy and the Minister please to comply. The Deputy has one minute.

Are my eyes deceiving me? Is this place falling down with Fianna Fáil Deputies that I have not been able to notice? I can assure the Minister that attendance at oral questions does not reflect interest in the agreement. I can assure the Minister-----

It is the same at every meeting in the country.

I can assure the Minister I have attended meetings with the Irish Farmers' Association, IFA, and other farm organisations in almost every constituency. I will tell the Minister that I will not be dubious or duplicitous about this. I know, as the Minister does, if he were honest, the position of every single farm organisation and I will analyse the outworkings of their positions. I know, as the Minister does, where farmers stand on all of these matters. The Minister has been trying to bide his time, but the time is running out. It says it all that he will not let the Dáil pass judgment on the CAP strategic plan before pen is put to paper.

One of the measures is the maximum upper limits payment. It does not go as far as I would like. It does not even go as far as the Minister said he would like. I ask the Minister if he will introduce those measures without any loopholes or discretion-----

Deputy, your time is up.

-----so that we have an upper limit of a maximum of a €100,000 payment that cannot be breached.

I ask the Deputy and Minister to put their questions and answers through the Chair. I call on the Minister to conclude. He has one minute.

Would you get back up the yard, Deputy Carthy? It is rich to come in here and make a big song and dance about the Dáil being able to make decisions about this, when the Deputy wanted Europe to make these decisions.

The Minister fought against it. I wanted distribution but he fought against it.

The Deputy did not want to have the flexibility for us and for me, as Minister, to work and consult with farmers across the country and to have that flexibility at national level.

I am just exposing the Minister's hypocrisy------

The Deputy wanted to cut that off at the pass at European level.

The Minister went to Europe and fought against the interests of the farmers of Donegal and now he-----

Now he has come in here to talk about engaging and consulting, which is total hypocrisy. I hope he will welcome the fact that I secured the capacity and potential at European level to introduce a maximum payment of €66,000.

The Minister did not.

I fought for €60,000 and I achieved €66,000. This is a good deal less than Deputy Carthy’s party's position of €80,000 until he decided to follow the Fianna Fáil policy.

When will the Minister introduce it?

I am glad to have secured a good, balanced, flexible CAP deal European level. I look forward to discussing that with farming families across the country, those who are going to be served and impacted by it over the next seven years.

Minister, your time is up. Déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall a chur in iúl gur ceisteanna agus freagraí atá i gceist anseo. Cuirtear ceist agus faightear freagra, tríd an gCathaoir, más é bhur dtoil é.

Questions and answers should be through the Chair.

On a point of information-----

There is no point of order. Deputy Carthy should resume his seat.

The problem is that the questions were not answered. This is supposed to be oral questions to the Minister.

Question No. 2 replied to with Written Answers.