The complex package of reforms to the Common Agriculture Policy has been passed by the European Parliament and will guide how Ireland’s €11bn in payments will be spent over the next seven years.
The sum going to farmers has been reduced for the first time, leading MEP Jim Higgins to call on the Government to ensure it is distributed in the most efficient way possible.
He warned that some estimates suggested that implementing the complex range of measures could cost 5% of the total, or €75m a year. “This is money which is supposed to be used to support farmers”, he said.
He called on Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, who was instrumental in negotiating much of the change on behalf of the EU, to ensure that the good deal he secured for Irish farmers was not lost in red tape.
Fellow MEP Máiréad McGuinness also advised caution saying that the decisions marked the beginning and not the end of the reform process.
“The hard facts are that the CAP budget is reduced for the first time in the history of the CAP and the EU, yet demands on the policy to deliver food and environmental goods is now greater while the number of farmers in the EU has also increased.
“But the budget pressures are real and this is the greatest challenge we face.”
This is the first reform to be jointly agreed by both the European Parliament and ministers of the member states and the process began three years ago with wide-ranging proposals from the European Commission.
Changes introduced by the Parliament included a blacklist of entities such as golf clubs and airports that cannot apply for funding unless they prove that farming contributes a substantial share of their income.
They also agreed a mandatory EU-wide scheme to give young farmers an extra 25% in payments for their first 25 to 90 hectares in an effort to persuade the next generation of farmers to stay on the land.
Small farmers and those in disadvantaged areas should get a greater proportion of the budget, while those that receive more than €150,000 will have their funds above that sum cut by at least 5%.
Greening measures have been introduced to ensure farmers contribute to environmental aims, and under the new rules 30% of each country’s direct payments can only be made if measures such as crop diversification, maintaining permanent grassland and creating ecologically focused areas are made.
Double payments should also be a thing of the past with a ban on farmers receiving payments twice for delivering the same environmental benefits.
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