There are many who will see Brexit as the ideal opportunity to make radical changes to the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) post 2020, quite apart from the impact of the negotiations on the future of the single market for food and for the EU budget, Mairead McGuinness MEP and first Vice-President of the European Parliament warned today.
Speaking as she performed the official opening of The Tullamore and AIB National Livestock Show on Sunday, Ms McGuinness said such radical change must be resisted given the importance of farming and food production.
She said a large number of stakeholder responses to the Commission consultation on the future of the CAP have come from environmental organisations taking the view that the CAP is broken and must be fixed. “Such views will influence the future of the CAP both in terms of funding and detail,” she said. “The Commission is also of the view that the policy must deliver more for the environment and climate change but there is very little clarity about how this will be achieved.”
Ms McGuinness said more targeted payments are called for, for specific environment and climate action. At the same time there is a unified call for simplification of the CAP.
”These two demands are not compatible. More detailed programmes with specific delivery requirements involve inspections and controls and add bureaucracy rather than simplification.”
The MEP said a much deeper debate is needed on how to shape the future of farming “which moves beyond time limited schemes that may not lead to time enduring change – the so-called sustainability that all aspire to.”
She said in the last CAP reform round the different levels of payments between different farmers and between member states was a source of division and debate.
“These issues will arise again as we debate the next round of the CAP but it should not overshadow the challenges facing agricultural and food policy in terms of market prices, volatility and environmental pressures.
“The future should be about ensuring that agriculture production systems are built on sustainability principles, both environmental and climate.”
Ms McGuinness said economic sustainability is also important. “Work must continue to highlight the critical role of Irish and European farmers in supplying high quality food on a daily basis to consumers.”
She said CAP payments will continue to be important and the CAP budget must be defended against cuts.
“The CAP makes shows like this here in Tullamore possible by sustaining a living countryside and a vibrant agriculture. I complement the show committee and all involved in making this massive show happen year in year out – the level of commitment and the voluntary effort involved is incredible.
“The EU is facing many challenges, including Brexit uncertainty and the impact it will have on the budget, as well as ongoing migration issues.
“Ensuring a supply of quality food and a living landscape cannot be forgotten in an already crowded agenda,” she said.