ICMSA urges Creed to fol­low French lead in op­pos­ing ‘dras­tic’ CAP re­form

Irish Independent - Farming - - FINANCE -

THE push­back against the EU’s post-2020 bud­get has be­gun, with France, Hun­gary, the Nether­lands and even Ire­land hav­ing a go, al­though for very dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

For France, the pro­posed 5pc cut to the Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy bud­get takes cen­tre stage, though the govern­ment has also crit­i­cised a 7pc re­duc­tion in re­gional (or Co­he­sion) fund­ing.

French agri­cul­ture min­is­ter Stéphane Travert (pic­tured right) de­scribed the CAP pro­posal as a “dras­tic, mas­sive and blind” cut in fund­ing that he said is “un­ac­cept­able” to the govern­ment.

Ir­ish farm­ers are urg­ing the Taoiseach and agri­cul­ture min­is­ter Michael Creed to fol­low suit, and take a “prin­ci­pled” stand.

ICMSA pres­i­dent Pat Mc­Cor­mack said “the French dec­la­ra­tion should be the ‘red line’ on which those Mem­ber States com­mit­ted to the prin­ci­ple and prac­tice of CAP should now rally and sig­nal that they will not be moved”.

Dis­ap­pointed

Mr Creed said he was “ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed” by the pro­posal, and that “a cut in fund­ing is sim­ply not a re­al­is­tic propo­si­tion”.

But whether it sat­is­fies the Taoiseach — who pledged to up Ire­land’s con­tri­bu­tion to the over­all EU bud­get as long as CAP fund­ing was main­tained — re­mains to be seen.

The Com­mis­sion es­ti­mates that be­tween 16 and 20 gov­ern­ments (in­clud­ing Ire­land) have agreed to pay more them­selves to off­set the bud­get cuts.

Agri­cul­ture com­mis­sioner Phil Ho­gan says Ire­land can min­imise an es­ti­mated 3.9pc cut in direct pay­ments by redis­tribut­ing money from larger to smaller farms once a new 60,000 euro cap on pay­ments is ap­plied. But of the 128,000 farms re­ceiv­ing direct pay­ments in 2016, less than 2pc re­ceived pay­ments over €50,000 , amount­ing to well un­der 10pc of the to­tal spent. And the govern­ment will also need to stump sup an ex­tra €47m euros a year to make up for a fall in ru­ral de­velop- ment co-fi­nanc­ing from the EU.

“We have worked out that the vast ma­jor­ity of farm­ers will see a very small cut, and if mem­ber states co­op­er­ate, of course they will see no bud­get cuts at all,” Mr Ho­gan ex­plained.

Hawks

But all these cal­cu­la­tions are moot un­less bud­get hawks such as the Nether­lands, Aus­tria, Swe­den and Den­mark (and pos­si­bly Fin­land) back down from their de­mand for even more cuts.

Dutch premier Mark Rutte was the first to is­sue a strong cri­tique of the bud­get pro­posal — par­tic­u­larly the move to end re­bates for richer coun­tries —say­ing it would leave his na­tion “pay­ing too high a share of the bill”.

And Hun­gary’s strong­man prime min­is­ter Vik­tor Or­bán threat­ened to veto the bud­get, which sug­gests link­ing fu­ture pay­ments from the re­gional fund to com­pli­ance with EU mi­grant re­lo­ca­tion tar­gets and EU “val­ues” such as ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence.

The com­ments are only the open­ing salvos in what is set to be a long bud­get bat­tle, and once made even more com­pli­cated by the fact that it’s still not clear how much the UK will be pay­ing — if any­thing — into the bud­get af­ter it leaves.

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