The shape of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), post 2020, could be quite different to the current one with more control vested at national level, according to Mairead McGuinness, MEP, and first vice-president of the European Parliament.
Speaking ahead of a national public consultation on the future of the CAP, which took place recently (February 13) at the Newgrange Hotel, Navan, hosted by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, she said the move away from historic payments will continue but the debate about how to target support and link payments to environmental delivery is now to the fore.
“Naturally, the concern of the farming community is that the budget for the CAP is not eroded, leaving less money to support farming and our rural regions. The budget battle is not won, so we must watch very closely and work with Member States to ensure that agriculture is not targeted for unjustified cuts,” she warned.
However, Ms McGuinness cautioned against a focus solely on money, and called for attention to be paid to the application of the CAP at ground level.
“Giving more power to Member States to adapt the CAP to meet specific needs is appealing but the impact of such a change needs to be teased out. I fully support Commissioner Hogan’s drive for simplification of the CAP at farm level and hope that the proposed reforms will meet this objective. That is why input from stakeholders, especially farmers is vital,” she said.
“The published communication from the Commission, which is on the table for discussion at the moment sees Member States shaping much of the detail to suit national requirements.
“This was born from a desire to address the view that there has been too much central control by Brussels. In the current CAP the so-called greening requirements were very much Brussels led and have resulted in difficulties when it came to the practical application at farm level.”
She said stakeholders need to make their views known 'and the window is relatively short with legislative proposals on the future shape of CAP due by June'.
Currently the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee is debating the proposals and drafting a response.
Ms McGuinness said Brexit is looming large in the debate 'with concerns about the budgetary impact on CAP and other policies'.
“We will resist cuts to fund new policy needs like security and migration and support the Commission view that new policies need new money.
“CAP is so intrinsic to providing a basic level of financial support to farmers that we must resist strongly any attempts to cut support,” she said.
“But, as policymakers we need strong public support for that agenda,” she said.