Ulster Farmers’ Union president Ian Marshall and CEO Clarke Black travelled to Brussels this week to meet with recently appointed EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan.
During the meeting the delegation discussed a range of important issues, including CAP implementation, currently facing farmers with Commissioner Hogan.
Following the meeting Mr Marshall said: “Mr Hogan took up the role of EU Agriculture Commissioner in October this year and we wanted to ensure we met him early on in his tenure in order raise a number of key issues facing Northern Ireland’s farmers. It was a very constructive meeting and it was obvious from our discussions that Commissioner Hogan has a much greater understanding of local issues than his predecessor.
“We had a comprehensive and wide ranging discussion in relation to the CAP covering: implementation practicalities; greening; cross compliance; ear tags; mapping; land eligibility; and simplification. Commissioner Hogan has been very clear that he believes there is scope for simplification of the CAP and he has asked us to provide him with examples of where we believe simplification can be achieved. His aim is the have a set of proposals in relation to implification drafted up early next year for wider discussion.
Encouragingly, the Commissioner was particularly receptive to looking at the disproportionate penalties for cross compliance breaches which have been a major issue for some farmers within the present CAP.
“We also discussed the serious situation facing the dairy industry and how dairy farmers felt the EU Commission could be doing more to support the industry. Commissioner Hogan explained that while he was not prepared to take any immediate action in relation to market support measures, he did assure us that he has both the capacity and inclination to intervene quicker, obviously within the constraints of a restricted budget, should the situation continue to deteriorate.
“Commissioner Hogan and his officials are also very focussed on opening and developing further international market opportunities, which will help to alleviate some of the pressure felt across our agriculture industry as a result of the Russian trade ban. They are also very aware of the importance of the agri food sector in delivering sustainable economic growth and jobs and see the development of these trade opportunities as further support for the type of well developed plans to grow and develop our agri-food industry as detailed in the NI Agri-Food Strategy Board’s Going For Growth report. China continues to be a massive player in terms of international trade and encouragingly the Commissioner is already working hard to open some other Asian markets, possibly in early 2015.
“We were also pleased to hear that the Commissioner recognises the longer term issues around food security and the future of agriculture. We are of the same belief that sustainable agriculture sector has the ability to be a solid base for supporting the economy and jobs in all member states. It was evident from our conversations that he is clearly focused on ensuring productive agriculture is appropriately supported by the EU going forward.
“Overall it was an in-depth and positive meeting and we firmly believe the Commissioner has a detailed understanding of the issues currently facing Northern Ireland’s farmers. We also welcomed the news that it was likely that the Commissioner would visit Northern Ireland early next year. We will continue to keep in regular contact with Commissioner Hogan,particularly in relation to the CAP and farm gate price volatility, and we look forward to further meetings in the future.”