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JANUARY
13
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COVER STORY
JANUARY
12
Commissioner Hogan on a visit to farmland in
the Burren, Co Clare. Source: EC Audiovisual.
difficulties in relation to trade negotiations with Mercosur,
for instance. A balanced outcome is in all of our interests."
ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Commissioner Hogan was forthright in his comments on
facing up to environmental issues: "We have no choice
about this. The reality is that we are facing serious problems
down the road if we don't reflect on the fact that Ireland's
food and agri sectors will have to be coordinated with all
other EU policies. Otherwise, we are going to end up paying
a lot of money in fines, and that is not what anyone wants.
Nobody should be under any illusion that protection of our
natural resources, doing more on nutrient management and
meeting our international obligations on climate change are
going to take a lot of education and training for everyone
involved. It will require a strong advisory service to help
farmers bring these policy objectives to reality while, at the
same time, ensuring farmers are able to make a living. Better
nutrient management and the increased use of precision-
farming technologies can make a difference. The CAP will
incentivise farmers in the future to move in this direction."
TARGET DRIVEN CAP
Outlining his plans for a target-driven CAP, Commissioner
Hogan said: "Clear and measurable targets will be built
into national CAP plans, and failure to meet those targets
will result in the imposition of penalties. Food Wise
2025 correctly recognises that a significant increase in
food production cannot be considered in isolation to
the environmental impact, particularly in relation to the
depletion of our national resources. The Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) has warned that Ireland needs to
adopt a greater sense of urgency in reducing its dependence
on fossil fuels. Failure to tackle this issue could cost the
country large sums of money in relation to carbon credits by
2020. We are sleepwalking towards further EU fines under
the renewable energy directive by our lack of investment in
the grid."
A CAUTIONARY DUTCH TALE
The Commissioner outlined the situation in the Dutch
dairy industry as a cautionary tale: "For the past year, the
Dutch have been dealing with a phosphorus problem, which
has resulted in the slaughter of 50,000 cows to meet their
targets. We do not want the Irish to be in such a situation
in the future. So we have to plan properly to avoid such
scenarios developing. The Dutch are currently negotiating
a nitrates derogation under the Nitrates Directive. That
derogation is worth over 1bn to the Dutch dairy industry.
In recent weeks, it has been revealed that controls need to
be tightened, which is placing great strains on the Dutch
government and its dairy sector. So, Ireland has to wake-
up, and soon, to the reality that we are part of an EU that
has assumed the role of global leader in addressing climate
challenges."
REBOOT FORESTRY PROGRAMME
On the issue of carbon sequestration, Commissioner Hogan
insisted that Ireland needs to reboot its afforestation policy
and make real headway: "At a minimum, there needs to be
a full achievement of the targets on afforestation set out in
the 2014 Forestry Programme. The perceived stigma among
some farmers towards planting trees on their land needs to
be addressed." He confirmed that sustainable afforestation
and food security are priorities for Ireland, as well as all
other countries in the EU.
SQUARING CIRCLES
There will be huge challenges for Commissioner Hogan
in developing the next CAP. Money will be scarcer with
the impending withdrawal of Britain from the EU. He
may have to consider placing ceilings on farm payments
and prioritising payments to those exclusively engaged in
farming activities. The Commissioner will have to tread
a fine line between giving more responsibility to national
governments while retaining the concept of commonality
across the EU. The task of marrying food production and
environmental pressures will mean that farmers will have
to change their focus significantly. All of Commissioner
Hogan's political prowess will be required to create a more
farmer-friendly CAP, post-2020.
Commissioner Hogan on
a visit to farmland in the
Burren, Co Clare. Source:
EC Audiovisual.
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