Irish Presidency sets CAP as its number one priority

THE Ulster Farmers’ Union gives a roundup of the latest EU developments from the UFU office in Brussels.

Irish Presidency underlined the need to get an agreement on the new CAP by June during a meeting of EU farming unions last week.

The Irish agriculture representative said: “The Irish Presidency will be dominated by a single subject – the CAP. We want a deal by the end of the Presidency.”

However he added that the goal was “very ambitious”. He said success by June would only be possible if there was an agreement on the EU budget 2014-2020 at the EU heads of state summit on February 7-8, if the Parliament agreed its report on the CAP in mid-March and if the member states came up with a coherent CAP compromise by the end of March. The six months of the Irish Presidency provide the greatest opportunity to achieve a CAP deal as the momentum will be lost in the second half of 2013 given summer holidays, national elections in Germany and Austria and preparations for European Parliament elections in the first half of 2014. But despite the urgency there are still question marks over whether the 27 prime ministers will step up to the plate and deliver a deal on the EU budget 2014-2020 in February.

MEPs ready for marathon CAP vote

MEPs on the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee are preparing themselves for a marathon vote on CAP reform amendments next week.

In total the MEPs submitted nearly 7,500 amendments to the European Commission’s controversial CAP reform proposals. The vote on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 is expected to take around nine hours and smash the record for the longest vote ever held in the parliament. Ahead of the vote the UK farming unions are contacting the MEPs and providing them with suggested voting lists.

In particular we are supporting measures to change the Commission’s greening proposals which, as they stand, would add huge administrative complexity and create a sizeable dent in our productive capacity. Among other things we are also working with MEPs to defeat the proposed flexibility to move money from pillar 1 to pillar 2, to reject capping and to ensure the CAP continues to help farmers compete on an open market place.

EU-US trade deal to steam ahead under Irish

The Irish Presidency of the EU will place a special focus on making progress on an EU-US trade relationship, with the aim of working towards a formal mandate for the start of negotiations on a new comprehensive EU-US Free Trade and Investment Agreement (FTA).

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told reporters last week that he understands a report from the high-level working group on EU-US trade relations “is favourable” to launching negotiations towards signing an agreement. The report is expected to be published in the coming weeks. The Irish presidency will also try to make progress on other trade agreements, which have been in the pipeline for some time - namely with India, Canada and Japan.

“With 26 million unemployed in the European Union, trade and investment are opportunities to boost growth and jobs,” said Mr Kenny.

Neonicotinoids worth up to e4.5bn to EU economy says report

A ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments would significantly reduce crop yields and cost the EU economy up to e4.5bn (£3.7bn), according to a recent study. The study, published this week by EU think tank the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture, said UK yields of some crops would decline by up to 20 per cent in difficult years like 2012, which could make winter wheat an unprofitable crop for many UK farmers and unfeasible in high-pest pressure areas.

The study estimated a loss of up to e782m (£630m) each year to the UK economy if neonicotinoids were banned. Neonicotinoids have been in the headlines since campaigners linked the use of certain products to the declining bee colonies in Europe – a conclusion questioned by the crop protection industry.

The study was commissioned by Bayer Crop Sciences and Syngenta with support of the European Seed Association, EU farming body Copa-Cogeca and the European Crop Protection Association.