Members hear CAP latest
THE positive themes to emerge from this weeks Congress of European Agriculture were that Dacian Ciolos is beginning to show signs of flexibility around some of his CAP Reform proposals, particularly on greening, and it was encouraging that on three separate occasions in his speech to farmers he referred to what he had seen on his recent visit to County Antrim.
Just over a week ago the UFU hosted the Commissioner on a Templepatrick farm where we explained to him some of the unworkable or overly bureaucratic aspects of his CAP reform proposals. It seems that this was a very worthwhile process and that the Commissioner was in listening mode.
The negative theme to emerge from this weeks Congress is that the CAP budget clearly is not secured and there are pressures from some EU countries to reduce the funding. It won’t be possible to move forward and finalise a CAP deal until the budget, in whatever format it takes, is agreed. The expectation now is that efforts will be made to agree the budget in November, with negotiations intensifying thereafter and a push for final CAP reform agreement during the Irish Presidency of the EU in the first half of next year.
Commissioner Ciolos has put great emphasis on greening as a justification for securing the CAP budget and hopefully this strategy will convince EU Finance Ministers. He advocates that Direct Payments to farmers must be credible and greening is a way to achieve this. However he has also been listening to our well founded concerns in Northern Ireland and indicated that: on permanent grassland maintenance, the definition of permanent and temporary grassland will be re-examined; on Ecological Focus Areas, he is willing to recognise the existence of ineligible natural features on our farms; and he accepts that the three crop diversification proposals are not a good fit with Northern Ireland farming practices. He also proposed a mechanism called ‘equivalence’ whereby farmers in an existing, equivalent, agri-environment scheme may be exempted from some greening requirements. So it seems the initial approach from the Commission of sticking rigidly to the original proposals, is slowly being replaced by a more flexible and workable approach.
The Commissioner also referred to the ongoing difficulties and unfairness in the food chain. The Commissioner said that voluntary codes to oversee the relationship between supermarkets, processors and farmers were limited and that we shouldn’t be afraid of the legislative approach. Indeed this theme was re-iterated by many speakers at the Congress. The difficulty however seems to be the arduous European decision making process, with Maria Patro Neves MEP highlighting that after four years of work in the EU Parliament on this issue, legislation has still not been introduced. So for now our hopes are pinned on the introduction of the UK Supermarket Adjudicator.
Paolo de Castro MEP, Agriculture chairman of the EU Parliament, who will for the first time be given equal decision making powers in the CAP negotiations, also gave his views. MEPs have tabled a massive 8,000 amendments to the original CAP proposals but the Parliament is unwilling to finalise it’s proposals until the CAP budget is agreed. De Castro is pressing for a strong CAP budget and this is helpful. Three overall themes are emerging from MEPs according to De Castro: they want more flexibility in the proposals to allow a better fit with the many different types of farming prevalent across Europe; greening must avoid more cost and bureaucracy; and better management tools must be available to avoid price volatility.
While many delegates focus was on greening and the budget, Eastern European delegates also made their voices heard about what they call a two speed Europe. They want a greater share of CAP funds in the future, bringing them closer in support to the original EU members. This is another pressure on our budget allocation.
The UFU delegation at the congress spoke to Mr De Castro MEP and many other farmers and farming leaders from across the EU. In the short term everyone is focused on November’s budget agreement and in the first half of next year a 2013 CAP deal. Work to improve the food chain needs legislation but the slow pace of the legislative system in Europe is a big concern.
UFU staff and members also had the opportunity to visit a dairy and arable farm in Western Hungary. The farm consisted of 800 cows with 2,500 hectares of arable land. The farm also grows and pre-packs potatoes for Tesco. All slurry is used in a newly built AD plant, generating 1000 euro per day in electricity. This year Hungarian farmers have struggled with drought conditions, with the maize crop output dropping by half. The farm highlighted the production potential in this part of Europe and despite the difference in scale, many similar issues were evident: the challenge of supplying Tesco; working with closed periods; weather volatility; investing in AD, etc.
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Weather for Belfast
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 18 C
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Wind direction: South west
Temperature: 12 C to 17 C
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