AGRICULTURE and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has expressed her dissatisfaction on the recent agreement reached by Heads of State regarding the EU’s long term budget arrangements.
“Overall, I’d have to say that I am disappointed with this outcome. I have always argued strongly that the budget should be maintained and the fact that we are now facing a reduction is an unwelcome result,” she told Farming Life.
“The Commission’s original proposal was for a budget freeze in cash terms. That would have translated into an 11% real terms cut for the 2014–2020 CAP budget compared with 2007–2013. The agreement actually reached by the Heads of Government is equivalent to a 13% cut in real terms. There can be no doubt that this will pose a significant challenge to our local industry given its current dependence on direct payments, as underlined by the recent income figures.
“We must also remember that that further reductions may be required within the next few years to meet the cost of the final phasing in of direct support payments to the new Member States.”
The minister concluded: “Whilst I don’t agree with this outcome, it does move us a step further along the road towards a CAP reform agreement and removes some of the current uncertainty. The agreement on the EU Budget is subject to the consent of the European Parliament and that is now the next step in the process.”
UFU President Harry Sinclair also believes that the budget deal is bad news for agriculture.
“What’s most concerning is the prospect of having to cope with a reduction in the Pillar 2 budget. This important dimension of the Common Agricultural Policy is already under funded in Northern Ireland.
“This then raises the prospect of additional modulation rates, a development which every local farmer will object to.”
He continued: “It is crucially important for Northern Ireland to receive the same proportion of the United Kingdom’s CAP budget, as was agreed at the last review. “At the end of the day we need a CAP deal that meets the specific needs of Northern Ireland and our Farm Minister must fight to ensure this becomes a reality.”