Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Joe Healy has written to the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, to make the case for continued strong EU funding of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020.
The IFA said the communication, as part of the ongoing debate on the future of Europe, was made in advance of president Juncker’s state of the union address this morning.
“Of all of the sectors in society, farmers are most aware of the benefits that EU membership has brought," Mr Healy said. "It has meant access to a market of 500 million consumers, the stability provided by CAP payments and the ability to grow and diversify our export markets.
“The next CAP reform will take place in the context of new challenges facing Europe, including market volatility, climate change, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Farmers are committed to delivering on the public goods requirements relating to the environment and climate change. This is in addition to the delivery of quality food, meeting the highest regulatory standards in the areas of food safety, animal health and welfare. In return, farmers must be provided with a fair standard of living.
“Simplification of the CAP is also critical. The rules of the payment system and inspection regime must take account of the realities of farming, and the increased use of technology and risk based analysis must be progressed.”
On the discussions on the future financing of the EU, Mr Healy said: “The European Commission’s reflection paper on the future of the EU finances identifies that the CAP reaches farmers and citizens even in the most marginal areas of EU, providing a positive impact on economic and social development in those areas.
“IFA recognises the challenges facing the EU budget, including the withdrawal of the UK, a net contributor, from the EU and the need to finance new priorities. However, it is unacceptable that existing budget programmes, such as CAP and cohesion funding, would simply be reduced to accommodate new challenges. Member States should increase their contributions, if necessary, to take account of Brexit, to fund existing policies and to take on new priorities, where agreed between Member States.
“A strongly funded CAP budget post-2020 is required, reversing the cuts imposed in the MFF 2014-2020, through direct income support and market management measures in Pillar I, and co-financed farm schemes in Pillar II.
“Irish farmers remain strongly positive towards the EU, recognising the benefits that EU membership and the CAP have delivered. It is hugely important that an open discussion is now had about the future financing of the EU and the importance of retaining strong existing policies, such as the CAP. This must take place in advance of expected initial proposals on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework and the further development of the Commission position on the reform of the CAP.”