FARM groups and Oireachtas committee members will discuss ecology and future food security issues during today’s Irish visit by European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Ciolos.
Despite intense budgetary pressures on the European Union, Commissioner Ciolos’s visit takes place against the relatively reassuring backdrop that any changes to the Single Farm Payment will happen in a gradual, phased manner.
Commissioner Ciolos recently addressed a forum on CAP restructuring in Brussels. Backed by French and German commitments to sustained supports for farming, he made it clear that any shift away from ‘historic’ payments to farmers will mean a redirection of focus rather than cuts in funding.
Commissioner Ciolos said: “Let me make one thing quite clear, farmers should not be ashamed to receive public funding. The support given to agriculture meets the needs of a very special sector that is facing serious challenges. This support needs to be better allocated, better targeted and easier to see. Taxpayers must be able to understand at once why it is being given.”
Commissioner Ciolos has also stated that future payments will not be made on historical criteria, but notes that this will not contain a threat to farmers’ income. Any changes will not undermine the two primary pillars of CAP.
Commissioner Ciolos said: “We must keep the two pillars. The first pillar is support for all European farmers on an annual basis which reflects quantifiable, visible results each year. The second pillar relates to environmental and other changes in different sectors. This CAP will support diversity for all its farmers and for all the rural areas in Europe. It generates the public goods which European society expects.”
Ciolos is also proposing measures to protect farmers against the volatility of prices. He believes that speculation should not put in danger farms otherwise perfectly viable in normal times.
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith TD was also optimistic yesterday about today’s meetings, noting the Commissioner had shown a willingness to listen by virtue of the comprehensive consultation process he organised earlier this year.
The Commission Communication is due to be published next month and Mr Smith said he hoped the Irish visit would bring a distinct Irish influence to the content of that communication and to the direction of CAP policy after 2013.
Commissioner Ciolos will meet with Mr Smith and Pat Carey and senior officials, followed by a short meeting with Brian Cowen. He will then take questions from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture.
From there he will travel to the Department of Agriculture campus in Backweston, Co Kildare, for a meeting with stakeholders from the Irish agri-food industry. Commissioner Ciolos will also visit the farm of Kildare suckler beef farmer Stephen Morrison
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