Can’t read much into leak of CAP pro­pos­als

Irish Examiner - Farming - - NEWS - Stephen Cado­gan

Too much re­mains to be filled in to be able to pre­dict what it will mean on the ground, said CAP ex­pert Alan Matthews, after the re­lease of leaked copies of an early draft of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s pro­pos­als for re­form­ing the CAP after 2020.

In the capre­form.eu blog, Mr Matthews also pointed out that the com­mis­sion’s vi­sion will get lost in the leg­isla­tive bar­gain­ing be­tween the coun­cil and par­lia­ment.

He said:, “Un­der the tri­logue sys­tem, the Com­mis­sion has lost much of its pre­vi­ous power to shape the course of leg­is­la­tion.

“As we saw in both the 2013 re­form and the Om­nibus Reg­u­la­tion, both the Coun­cil and the Par­lia­ment will bring for­ward their own amend­ments which can change the Com­mis­sion’s pro­posal out of all recog­ni­tion.” Brussels has been buzzing since the leak of doc­u­ments, which were not to be launched un­til Novem­ber 29, said the pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of Euro­pean agri­cul­tural pol­icy at Trin­ity Col­lege, Dublin. The doc­u­ments sketch out the fu­ture di­rec­tion for the CAP in broad brush-strokes, and in less than 18 pages, and will be fol­lowed in the spring by a more de­tailed im­pact as­sess­ment. Re­fer­ring to the sec­tion that has gen­er­ated most head­lines in Ire­land, Mr Matthews said a ref­er­ence to fo­cus­ing di­rect pay­ments on those who “de­pend on farm­ing for their liv­ing” has been in­ter­preted as an im­plicit threat to re­duce pay­ments to part­time farm­ers, who take up off­farm em­ploy­ment as a way to sup­ple­ment their farm­ing in­come.

But this pro­posal seems to be in­con­sis­tent with an ear­lier one in the doc­u­ment, that di­rect pay­ments sup­port should be tar­geted on smaller farms, said capre­form.eu con­trib­u­tor Mr Matthews. The leaked draft com­mu­ni­ca­tion also in­cludes a pro­posal to cap pay­ments as low as €60,000, ad­justed for labour in­ten­sity; and to give more to smaller farms by mak­ing more use of the re­dis­tribu­tive pay­ment, which re­dis­tributes a set per­cent­age of di­rect pay­ments to the ‘first’ hectares of all farms.

Mr Matthews says the com­mu­ni­ca­tion, like all other pre­vi­ous CAP re­form pro­pos­als, prom­ises to re­duce bu­reau­cracy and the ad­min­is­tra­tive bur­den. “This is un­likely to hap­pen, as can be seen by ex­am­in­ing the tra­jec­tory of the CAP,” he said. He ex­plained that in the old CAP, the au­thor­i­ties did not need to know any­thing about the farmer, be­cause sup­port hap­pened au­to­mat­i­cally, when­ever a farmer sold pro­duce.

But more and more farmer i n f o r m a t i o n wa s n e e d e d , first after the MacSharry re­form in­tro­duced par­tial­ly­cou­pled di­rect pay­ments linked to area and an­i­mal num­bers, and then after the Fis­chler re­form in­tro­duced de­cou­pled pay­ments and cross-com­pli­ance. “Be­cause pay­ments to farm­ers will be in­creas­ingly linked to demon­strat­ing changes in farm prac­tices in fu­ture, this need for close mon­i­tor­ing will con­tinue.” said Mr Matthews. “A struc­tural change in de­ci­sion-mak­ing, such as giv­ing joint re­spon­si­bil­ity to both the agri­cul­tural and en­vi­ron­men­tal bod­ies in both the Coun­cil and Par­lia­ment, may be nec­es­sary if the ideas in the Com­mis­sion’s draft Com­mu­ni­ca­tion are ever to be im­ple­mented in an am­bi­tious way,” said Mr Matthews. He wel­comed the ab­sence of higher in­ter­ven­tion prices, more cou­pled pay­ments, or counter-cycli­cal pay­ments, in the pro­pos­als.

He said the ‘big idea’ in the pa­per is the need for a new de­liv­ery model mov­ing away from top-down and one-siz­e­fits-all, with the EU set­ting ba­sic pa­ram­e­ters and giv­ing more re­spon­si­bil­ity to Mem­ber States as to how to achieve EU ob­jec­tives.

He said the draft Com­mu­ni­ca­tion rules out na­tional co-re­spon­si­bil­ity for di­rect pay­ments, and this is “a missed op­por­tu­nity to im­prove the in­cen­tive for Mem­ber States to make bet­ter use of EU monies.” “With­out co-fi­nanc­ing, Mem­ber States lose in­ter­est in spend­ing the money well,” he said.

“By main­tain­ing the sta­tus quo, the Com­mis­sion is guilty of per­pet­u­at­ing a sit­u­a­tion where the EU is pro­vid­ing 100% fi­nanc­ing to mea­sures such as vol­un­tary cou­pled sup­port, which has no Euro­pean value added. “In­deed, dur­ing the re­cent milk cri­sis, when Mem­ber States were sub­si­dis­ing ev­ery sec­ond dairy cow in the Union at a time when the Com­mis­sion was try­ing to limit pro­duc­tion, ar­guably this ex­pen­di­ture had a neg­a­tive EU value added. This is no longer de­fen­si­ble.”

Mr Matthews said the ur­gency of cli­mate ac­tion is not com­mu­ni­cated in the leaked pro­pos­als.

Pic­ture: John T Ohle Pho­tog­ra­phy

Alan Matthews, TCD, right, with EU Com­mis­sioner for Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Phil Ho­gan, and Mairead McGuin­ness, MEP, at this year’s Agri­cul­tural Eco­nomics So­ci­ety an­nual con­fer­ence in Dublin.

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