The debate about future of the EU CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) budget has begun in earnest with publication of a European Commission Reflection Paper on the Future of EU Finances, Mairead McGuinness, MEP and first Vice-President of the European Parliament has said.
Speaking in Brussels this morning (Thursday) she said: “Targeting payments further towards protection of the environment and climate action and tilting it away from its current orientation whereby on average 20pc of farmers receive around 80pc of the payments, form the primary focus of Commission thinking.
“The document states that moving further towards the provision of public goods related to the protection of the environment and climate action would require more targeted and regionally adapted support measures.”
She said the Commission paper states that in some cases CAP payments do not contribute to the structural development of agriculture but tend to increase land prices that may hinder the entry of young farmers into the market.
“The Commission document suggests that a greater balance needs to be struck between policy objectives, payments, grants, risk-management tools and measures to cope with risk and unexpected adverse events,” she said.
“The document published by the Commission is looking at how the EU will structure its budget and spending in a future where there are greater demands for budget allocations to new priority areas and pressures on the budget, including the impact of Brexit.
“Agriculture and food production is a key priority area and cannot be hit by budget cuts to fund other policy areas.
“Any cuts to the CAP represent a reduction in income to rural communities as CAP payments contribute to business and local economies.
“New EU policy priorities may require additional funding and this is a debate which the member states must have and show a willingness to provide that additional support, where necessary.”
As to the future orientation of the CAP, redistribution of payments will continue in those member states, including Ireland, where there is a move to a flat rate payment per hectare, McGuinness said.
“Additional questions about further capping of payments will also be asked.
“The future of EU financing and its impact on the CAP will continue to be hotly debated in the European Parliament.
“But a policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul cannot be justified,” she warned.