New CAP could drag us all down

After reading about the latest proposals to redistribute single farm payment (SFP), coming nearer to a flat rate per acre basis, I was at a complete loss to figure out how making everyone in farming equally poor would help the Irish economy.

You see, I believe that any new version of the Common Agriculture Policy deal for Irish farming should not be seen as just a subsidy system designed to maintain the farming community — it must be designed as a stimulus package for the entire economy.

I fail to see how attempting to redistribute the SFP on the basis of acres owned will achieve anything other than a quick fix for politicians and civil servants.

The Commission proposes to level payments across the entire EU, regardless of the abilities of those receiving payments to generate employment or product,

In my opinion, the response to the Commission plan from our minister and his officials takes the line of least resistance towards achieving a deal.

Instead, he should have rejected proposals out of hand, and insisted on a deal that maximises the huge untapped potential of the Irish farming and food sectors to drive the Irish economy forward.

Ensuring the population of Europe had an ample supply of food was one of five original CAP objectives.

It was a very simple and very important idea. Unfortunately it’s an idea that has become lost in external political and trade deals over the decades.

The fundamental problem today is there isn’t enough money in the current CAP budget to compensate for the years of inflation which have eaten away at the SFP.

I offer as evidence the results of Teagasc’s National Farm Survey 2011 which show, among other things, that farmers in the beef finishing sector continue to lose unsustainable amounts of money, on average €244 per hectare in 2010, and €88 per hectare in 2011.

Couple that with what Farming Editor Stephen Cadogan last week called the “conversion of the Common Agriculture Policy to a Common Environment Policy”, and it’s clear to see that the powers-that-be have lost focus on the important issues that the CAP was about originally — a fair standard of living for the farmers who secure an EU food supply, available to consumers at reasonable prices.

Here in Ireland, there is no doubt that some regions face more severe challenges in a farming sense than others, and need special consideration — but you can’t adequately deal with their problems by taking the incentive away from other areas.

What’s needed is recognition that the CAP budget for Ireland is inadequate.

There’s a question every farmer must be asking.

If there seems to be no end to the money that Europe can plough into the banking sector, how come the CAP budget. which has a far greater potential to drive employment and which ensures EU food security, is supposed to operate in 2012 on a budget greatly eroded by inflation?

If food prices rocket this winter because cheap imported commodities aren’t available, it won’t be much of a consolation to consumers that the EU is heading towards a CAP deal which, Minister Coveney says, “is doing something substantial to protect the environment and maintain biodiversity”.


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