THE Ulster Farmers’ Union has described the Budget agreed today (Friday) by the EU Heads of State to fund the European Union for the period 2014-2020 as a real ‘mixed bag’.
This week the UFU Leadership team and Policy Director attended a special COPA Summit which was organised to coincide with these EU Budget talks in Brussels. At this meeting, around 400 farmer and Agri-cooperative representatives had called on heads of state and governments to maintain the current CAP budget post-2013.
Speaking after the agreement was reached, UFU President Harry Sinclair said: “We are pleased that EU Heads of States have reached an agreement following the aborted talks in November of last year. It is very important for the farming industry that there is stability going forward, the alternative of annual EU Budget negotiations during the next seven year period would certainly not have provided.
“However, we are very disappointed that the decision which has been taken is a real terms cut in the CAP Budget until 2020. This comes at a time when the recently released 52% collapse in Northern Ireland farm income figures for 2012 has starkly shown the importance of EU Direct Support for farmers given that the supply chain is simply not providing enough of a return to cover production costs.”
Mr Sinclair continued: “We also welcome the fact that the agreed distribution method for the allocation of the CAP Direct Support funds between the EU Member States will have no negative effect on the UK’s share of this Direct Support as the UK falls below the 90% threshold of the EU average. This was proposed initially by the European Commission and has now been agreed by the Heads of State. We are however alarmed that the UK has once again prioritised the retention of the UK rebate over securing additional funding for Rural Development. The UK has always historically had much less than its fair share of the available EU funding.”
Several key areas have also been agreed such as the option for up to 15% fund transfer between Direct Support and Rural Development and the introduction of a requirement to use 30% of available Direct Support funding for a ‘greening’ payment. However significant flexibility still remains in terms of how these are to be implemented.
The UFU now look forward to the EU Agriculture Council, the European Parliament and the EU Commission progressing the process to agree the implementation detail of a reformed CAP under the Irish Presidency between now and the end of June.