CAP Reform: the devil will be in the detail
DURING his recent stop off in Northern Ireland, EU Farm Commissioner Dacian Ciolos seemed to rule out the re-introduction of a headage (or output based) support system for European farmers, on the grounds that it would infringe agreements that had previously been reached with the WTO (World Trade Organisation).
He emphasised this point during a question and answer session at Greenmount College. I thought nothing of it at the time but over recent days have come to realise how fundamentally restrictive this position could become for local farmers and how, potentially, uncompetitive it could make European agriculture moving forward.
In essence the EU has signed up to a deal with the international community which will fundamentally restrict the amount of food that farmers in Europe can produce. And, given the projected growth in the world’s population it now appears that other food producing regions will be allowed to expand their farm production base, while Europe stagnates.
The issue of not allowing the re-introduction of what’s called a ‘coupled’ support system may also have a direct bearing on how our local beef sector develops over the next few years. It is now apparent that many intensive beef finishers will lose out if the decision is taken to change the current Single Farm Payment system to one that is exclusively area based in nature.
Like it or not, the economics of beef production in Northern Ireland are such that the current Single Farm Payment is required to fund the entire sector, which is worth £millions to the local economy. The reality is that most beef finishers will not have the land area to ensure that the proposed reform measures will equate with the Single Farm Payment support that is currently available.
One possible way out of this dilemma would be to re-introduce some form of headage payment support system for livestock farmers post 2015. However, Dacian Ciolos would seem to have ruled this option out, given the comments he made at Greenmount.
Much has been said and written about the need to get the best possible CAP reform deal for Northern Ireland. Redmeat production supports thousands of jobs, both at farm and processing level. It is crucially important, therefore, that the needs of this industry are fully reflected in the final arrangements put in place for Northern Ireland!
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Friday 24 May 2013
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