ICOS welcomes EU vote in favour of CAP reform, but concerned at threat to Ireland’s dairy sector

ICOS European affairs executive Alison Graham

ICOS has welcomed the European Parliament’s agriculture committee vote 29-7 in favour of proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020.

Among the main changes proposed by Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, the main reforms included a €100,000 cap on direct payments and allowing greater flexibility to the Departments of Agriculture in each member state to decide upon farm policy.

The MEPs have also voted in favour of allocating 60% of the total CAP budget to direct payments, 30% of the rural development budget to environmental schemes, among other eco-focused initiatives. These approved reforms will be discussed by the European Parliament sometime following the European elections in May.

Alison Graham, ICOS European affairs executive, said: “These proposals will provide a solid working basis for the new European Parliament, when it is elected in May, which we hope will iron out remaining difficulties, in discussions together with the Council and Commission, and move the reform process along without further delay.

While we are concerned about the impact of a number of the proposed measures introduced by Agricultural MEPs, we welcome this step forward in the reform process and the many positive elements they have agreed.

“This includes approval of the new delivery model and greater flexibility for member states while maintaining the commonality of the policy, defence of the CAP budget at its current level, strengthening the definition of active farmers to ensure more targeted support, maintenance of the EU school schemes and greater supports for young farmers and new entrants.”

However, ICOS says it is concerned about the approval of the ‘Production Curbing System’ proposal, wherein farmers would be pushed to reduce production in times of market imbalance. ICOS says this system would be damaging for Irish dairy in particular.

The EU plans to use this supply management tool across all sectors.

For instance, in periods of oversupply, the system would impose a levy on farmers who increase their production to finance an aid scheme for farmers who reduce their production.

“ICOS has raised its strong opposition to this proposal among MEPs, which we believe would be hugely damaging to Irish dairy farmers and co-operatives and would serve to undermine the significant on-farm and processing investments made by the industry in recent years,” said Alison Graham.

“At every opportunity this Parliament has pushed for a return to supply management of the dairy sector through the use of such a tool, ignoring the market realities of the global supply-demand balance.” ICOS argues that there are more effective market management tools already on hand to prevent and address a market disturbance, which do not risk undermining the investment and sustainability of the European dairy sector. We hope the next Parliament can undo this damaging trend and focus on policy stability so that farmers and the agri-food industry can focus instead on meeting new and evolving environmental objectives,” she said.

ICOS — the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society — represents more than 130 co-operatives across Ireland, including the Irish dairy processing co-ops and livestock marts.

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