Ireland prepared to take control of CAP negotiations

CYPRUS delivered its CAP reform progress report to agriculture ministers before Christmas, before wishing the Irish “good luck” to complete the reform process during its turn in the presidency hot-seat which will run from January to June 2013.

Member states broadly welcomed the progress report and overall considered it a fair and accurate reflection of the debate in the council.

The Cyprus farm minister Sofoclis Aletraris told his EU counterparts that he had hoped to reach a broader agreement under his presidency, but on-going negotiations on the budget for 2014-2020 had made it impossible. As Mr Sofoclis handed the baton over to Irish farm minister Simon Coveney he said the time available to complete an agreement was “dangerously short” and warned that a cut in the CAP budget could jeopardise the greening of the CAP. Mr Coveney said there was still “significant work to do to find our council position”.

Once the Council has a position it must be agreed by the European Parliament and the European Commission.

Mr Coveney added: “These two steps require a lot of further work if we are to get this done by next June when we would like to complete it by.” Internal convergence of direct payments and greening remain two of the biggest issues to resolve.

Paterson wants interim

proposals for 2014

Defra Secretary Owen Paterson has called on the European institutions to make a quick decision on CAP reform to give farmers long term certainty over their future funding. In particular he called on the European Commission to come forward with interim proposals for 2014.

“I urge the commission to publish transitional arrangements soon so that existing arrangements in pillar 1 and pillar 2 can continue adjusted pro-rata to the available budget,” he said.

Mr Paterson has also called for simplification across all of the CAP regulations. “We must have simplification at the front of our minds and a good example is ensuring that we do not place additional and unnecessary burdens on national and small farmer schemes voluntary wherever possible,” he said. One key area for Mr Paterson was on the need for flexibility to implement greening at member state and at regional level. He was supported by a large number of member states. “I agree with several others around the table that we need an adequate mechanism to achieve equivalence of greening measures based on delivering equivalent greening outcomes rather than replicating the commission’s proposed measures in a different way,” he said. Mr Paterson concluded that “solid progress” had been made under the Cypriot presidency and that he looked forward to completing the process under the Irish presidency.

Common declaration on

coupled support

Ministers were briefed on a common declaration concerning coupled support from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia and supported by Slovenia. They said coupled support was an important instrument of the CAP because it ensured support for sectors with particular difficulties. The Commission pointed out the need to apply coupled support to targeted objectives and use flexibility in the internal convergence of direct payments. The current limit in the national ceiling for coupled support is 10% but the declaration asked for that figure to be raised.

Conditions for phasing-out

the milk quota system

The European Commission has commented on the evolution of the milk market situation and the consequent conditions for smoothly phasing-out the milk quota system (or “soft landing”). Some EU Farm Council delegations contested that the “soft landing” was on track in a majority of member states as announced by the Commission. These countries regretted the level of “super-levy” for exceeding milk quotas. Other delegations expressed their concern with regard to the abolition of quotas in particular for less favoured areas.

In its report, the Commission considered that both the evolution of milk production versus milk quotas, and the downward trend in quotas prices show that the phasing-out of the milk quota system is on track. In many member states, quotas are no longer relevant to limit production and the quota price has already reached zero or is approaching it.