THE battle to protect the European Union budget for agriculture will be tougher than expected, it emerged in Brussels over recent days.
This follows indications from Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski that he sees a future with less spent on agriculture and more on research and innovation.
Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness said his words are part of a softening up process, preparing the ground for a lower agriculture budget, unless this is strongly resisted. Now is the time to cry, “halt”.
“From an Irish perspective this is a very alarming statement and will require tough lobbying and negotiating to ensure that the agriculture budget is not raided,” she said.
Ms McGuinness warned that the battle of the budget is beginning to heat up as member states struggle with economic problems back home and voice reluctance to increase their contributions to the EU budget.
“That may have far greater consequences behind and outside of the farm gate than many realise in Ireland.”
Actual proposals are expected from the Commission next month. This coincides with a formal opening of the budget review process where all of the cards will be on the table in terms of receipts and payments.
Copa-Cogeca, the European umbrella body for farmers and co-ops, said it strongly opposes any cuts in farm spending in the budget review.
It warned that a sufficient budget is vital to finance a robust Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the future.
Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said a strong CAP is essential in the post-2013 period so that farmers and their co-operatives can contribute to the growing challenges of food security, growth and employment and the fight against climate change.
“Funding for the CAP is already less than 1% of EU public expenditure and represents only 0.4% of GDP.
“Research and development are crucial, but, more importantly, we need to get existing research passed on to farmers and their co-operatives.
“A strong CAP, with adequate funding, is consequently vital so that farmers have a clear view of their future and can make the necessary investments.
“Without the right policies in place, Europe will not be able to meet the challenges of growing world food demand, climate change, whilst maintaining a fair income for farmers.
“Our views have also been supported by many EU farm ministers who rejected any farm spending cuts at their meeting earlier this year,” he said.
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