The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle T.D., attended the meeting of the Council of EU Agriculture Ministers in Brussels on the 19th of March 2018.
EU Agriculture Ministers adopted Presidency conclusions, supported by 23 Member States including Ireland, on the European Commission’s Communication on “The Future of Food and Farming”.
Speaking in Brussels, Minister Doyle said “The Presidency has made a real effort to accommodate the concerns of Member States. I recognise that the new CAP must deliver greater added value, including by making the policy greener and more results driven. Of course we will need a strong budget to deliver on these objectives”.
The conclusions come against the backdrop of discussions held by EU Agriculture Ministers at January and February Council. In acknowledging the need for simplification, particularly in relation to the proposed new CAP Strategic Plans, Minister Doyle urged his colleagues to work hard together to ensure the new model delivers real simplification for farmers and administrators and that we learn lessons from the past.
Focusing on the new proposed greening architecture, the Minister stressed that greening and cross compliance requirements must be streamlined and inspections should focus to a greater extent on the rectification of unintentional errors, rather than on punishment. Of critical importance however is that “the focus on outputs, rather than compliance, should be applied in a practical way. If this is done, it must result in reductions in error rates for farmers and Member States that can lead to disallowances and bring the policy into disrepute among stakeholders and citizens”.
Minister Doyle also outlined his strong support for the efforts being made to better target direct payments. Taking into the account the fact that the agriculture sector differs significantly across Member States in terms of farm size and agro-ecological conditions, the Minister welcomed the intention to provide for some Member State discretion in this regard.
The Minister also supported the reference that further reflection is needed on how the crisis reserve can be improved upon, and suggested that some flexibility could be given at member state level to use the reserve to deal with exceptional events.
The conclusions also refer to the higher level of environmental ambition for the next CAP and in this context the Minister welcomed the fact that the conclusions “recognise that farmers must be adequately remunerated to incentivise the delivery of public goods. The current focus on costs incurred and income foregone adds complexity to scheme design and approval and fails to fully acknowledge the real value of environmental measures”.
In conclusion, the Minister also recognised that generational renewal is a critical priority for the agriculture sector and that flexibility is needed at EU and national level to develop effective incentives to energise young farmers.