Mairéad McGuinness, MEP for Louth-Meath and Ireland East spoke to a large gathering in Dundalk Library last Thursday about the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).
“As discussions on the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy enter their final stages there is still much to play for in this one common European policy that affects everyone in the community, not just the farming sector,” the MEP said.
Mairead is one of the lead negotiators for the European Parliament and brought Agricultural Commissioner Ciolos to Co Louth last year to see first-hand the likely impact of changes proposed by the Commission. “As the title of this evening’s debate aptly captures, in ’Can the new CAP deliver for farmers, consumers and the environment,’ the short answer is, it must.”
“Too much of the debate has centred on the distribution of the CAP money between farmers but the sustainability of agriculture and food production is the key.
“Compromises will be required but will not be easily achieved”, explained the MEP, “and the Parliament, now with increased powers following the Lisbon Treaty vote, is insisting that additional support for young farmers must be mandatory for all member states while the Council wants this to be a voluntary measure.
“Likewise on greening and convergence, compromises will be required but will be not easily found”.
The MEP said the implications of the greening measures on Irish farming are only beginning to be assessed. These measures are designed to deliver on biodiversity and climate action and will have implications for farming enterprises, especially in the tillage sector.
The final and perhaps most difficult phase of the CAP reform process got underway this week when negotiators from the European Parliament, the Council and Commission started what is termed the ‘trilogue’ process.
McGuinness said there is enormous pressure to make the CAP deliver more environmental benefits, especially around biodiversity.
And there is pressure too on the budget for the CAP with payments to farmers cut 5pc on 2013 as a result.
“This budgetary pressure will not ease and we must also focus on how to get more money back to farmers from the final food price.”
The MEP said the trilogue meetings will continue right up to the end of June with the aim of having a final political agreement on the CAP.
“There is still a great deal of detail to be thrashed out between Parliament, Council and Commission.
“There will have to be compromise, but the Parliament will hold fast to the mandate voted by the Plenary last month,” she said.
Senior Executive Librarian, Amanda Branigan thanked Mairead for her valuable presentation on behalf of the Louth Library Service and the audience.
The night concluded with an in-depth Q&A session with great feedback from the audience.