THE European Parliament and European Commission have been urged to come to a determination on reform of Common Agricultural Policy during Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union.
SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie, who is also a member of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee in Westminster, said she was alarmed to learn that the Agriculture Committee in the European Parliament had suspended negotiations on Common Agricultural Policy until January 2013 and called for ‘reasons and a rationale’ to be provided as to why this is the case.
Ms Ritchie also confirmed she had tabled an urgent question to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the House of Commons querying what progress has been made in such negotiations.
Ms Ritchie said: “It is imperative, in the interests of farmers on the island of Ireland that negotiations on CAP reform are completed during Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union which commences in January 2013. Farmers in the North need to be financially protected and cushioned and to be assured that as the primary producers of food that they will be certain of an on-going income from the land. Many farmers throughout the island of Ireland rely heavily on environmental and rural development payments – they need certainty.
“Ireland’s farms need an injection of youth if we are to maintain our production levels and the invaluable contribution that our farms make to the local environment. This is another reason why it is imperative that negotiations on CAP reform are completed during Ireland’s presidency. Only a few months ago following my representations to the European Commission, I received confirmation from Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos that one of the CAP Reform proposals on rural development is for Members States to provide start up aid to Young Farmers of up to €70,000 in the form of a flat rate payment over a five year period.
“In addition to this Commissioner Ciolos also confirmed that under the Commission’s CAP Reform proposals young farmers would benefit from additional income support on top of the basic payment, and Member States would use up to 2% of their national ceiling for direct payments for this purpose. Member States would also give priority for young farmers in the allocation of payment entitlements from the National reserve.
“Other measures in the CAP reform proposals include further indirect measures such as training and advisory services, measures to further links between research and farming practices, innovation and cooperation between farmers.”
She added: “While we must guard against the greening measures currently proposed under CAP Reform, these positive measures for our young farmers must be given every support. The completion of negotiations during the time of Ireland’s Presidency would be the correct and opportune time to protect the interests of our farming community.”