By Joe Dermody
Ireland will resist suggested CAP funding cuts of 5%, or even 10%, Sinn Féin senator Rose Conway-Walsh has told EU budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger.
Among those to address the commissioner, during meetings with the Oireachtas Finance Committee, in Dublin, the Mayo senator said money being “wasted” on EU militarisation could be targeted for cuts, instead of agriculture, which sustains farm families and rural communities.
“CAP is in the firing line,” she said. “There is a potential shortfall of €5bn, as a result of Brexit. The commissioner has already told German farmers that cuts are on the way. He also confirmed, to me, that as he travels the parliaments of Europe, he has received requests for the CAP budget to be cut by up to 30%. This is extremely worrying.
“I told the commissioner that any cuts to CAP would be completely unacceptable. Whilst I acknowledged the solidarity from the EU around the Brexit issue, I stressed the double blow that would be inflicted on Irish farmers, through reduction in CAP and losing access to the British market. Farmers are already struggling with volatile incomes.”
ICMSA president, Pat McCormack, described the suggested cuts as “ominous and extremely threatening to the economic structure of rural Ireland”.
He urged the Government to respond to the commissioner’s suggestion of a possible 5-10% cut for both CAP and the cohesion funds.
Mr McCormack said that Ireland must signal it will not accept a reduced CAP budget and will push for the remaining 27 member states to increase individual contributions to cover the reduction arising from Brexit.
He said the EU’s default reaction to any challenge seemed to involve cutting CAP and damaging farmers, and he referenced the row with Russia and the subsequent tit-for-tat sanctions and embargoes.
These had fallen disproportionately on the EU’s farmers and food-producers.
IFA president, Joe Healy, has proposed that each EU member state increase its contribution to the EU budget, from 1% to 1.2% of gross national income. He said this increase would reflect the impact of Brexit, on the one hand, as well as the EU’s improved economic conditions, on the other.
“Since 1990, the percentage of overall, EU budget going to the CAP has fallen from 70% to 38%; the real value of payments to farmers has fallen, as they haven’t kept pace with inflation. Any further cut would be a disaster for agriculture and rural Ireland,” he said.