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Seán Kelly - MEP of the Year
Issue 1: December 2012
CAP: "Proposed Greening is Compulsory Set-Aside by another name" In September, I voiced serious concerns over proposals that would force recipients of Common Agricultural Policy payments to set aside 7% of their land for the purpose of "greening". I am encouraged by the recent moves towards addressing this issue in the ongoing CAP negotiations Speaking at a public hearing on reform of the CAP at the European Parliament, in the presence of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Commission Dacian Ciolos, I strongly disagreed with the Commission's proposal which could reduce output at a time when food security is a major concern while increasing the administrative burden. "The proposal as it currently stands seeks to take 7% of agricultural land, which is a considerable proportion of any farm, out of use for no sound reason, it is 'set aside" by a new name. This is a purely theory based approach which doesn't take account of the realities and practicalities of farming across Europe.
A chara, It is a crucial time for the Irish Agriculture Sector, while negotiations towards a new Common Agricultural Policy are continuing, much remains to be done to ensure the best deal possible for Irish farmers. Uncertainty continues to surround the negotiations for the EU's Seven Year Multiannual Financial Framework, with certain countries trying to use these negotiations to attack CAP. I am confident that Minister Coveney will achieve a satisfactory result for Irish agriculture but we cannot let our guard down at any point during this process. I am always available to discuss agricultural, rural and regional development matters as well as any other issue with you. If I can be of any assistance to you please do not hesitate to contact me.
Biodiversity and environmental protection are important issues but this is the wrong way to address them. Previous programmes such as REPS, involving all the stakeholders; farmers, rural communities, and policy makers, working in cooperation in a collaborative manner, show the most effective method of addressing these concerns. An one-sizefits all approach is misguided and should be reconsidered.
Le gach dea-ghuí,
Referring in particular to farmers who rent land, I outlined the "irrationality" of the proposal on a practical level as it would adversely affect farmers who rent agricultural land. Under its current framework, any farmer who either rents a farm or just a few extra fields will find themselves in the absurd situation of having to rent land just for the sake of setting it aside. This situation highlights the impractical nature of this proposal.
The public hearing, Towards a simpler, more effective and more efficient CAP, was hosted by the European People's Party (EPP Group), Fine Gael's umbrella grouping in Europe.
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Seán Kelly MEP - Member of the EPP Group
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CAP Budget must be defended Securing an adequate budget for the Common Agricultural Policy is of the utmost importance. Recently, I urged all EPP (Fine Gael's European Umbrella Party) Heads of Government and Agriculture Minister to resist any cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy.
Sean with member of Macra na Feirme from Ireland South on a visit to the European Parliament Brussels.
My Work on the New CAP As co-author of CAP Report in Regional Development Committee, I recently proposed key amendments to the proposal focussing on reducing bureaucracy for the average farmer. Similar recent CAP related work includes: • Speaking out against member states delaying payments to farmers. • Welcoming the advance payments being made this year and called on the Commission to ensure that this becomes the norm in future. • Proposing that farmers should be entitled to claim interest on late payments. This should ensure that funds are dispersed in a timely manner in future and act as a deterrent to tardy national governments. • Identifying growth areas in dairy and a potential renewal of the sugar sector. A strong agri-food sector will be central to regional development as we emerge from recession • Proposing a series of amendments calling for a removal of the sugar quota, which is being resisted in other parts of Europe. • Stressing the need for fairness between the farm gate and supermarket aisle: • Calling for EU competition law to be applied aggressively to middlemen who have sought to extract unfair gains from farmers at the farm gate and from consumers who are the final link in the chain. • Highlighting the importance of supporting young farmers, this is vital and can be achieved through the ring fencing of funds to encourage the entry of young farmers into the agriculture sector. There are more farmers in Ireland aged over 80 than under 35 years. • In relation to the controversial 'greening' element of the Commission's CAP proposals, I tabled amendments to ease potential burdens on Irish farmers. As we are all aware Irish agriculture is by its very nature green. The typical Irish family farm is small-scale, grass-based and efforts at greening should be made in the larger industrial farms in other member states.
• It is vital that we and Irish negotiators stand firm against any reductions in funding for CAP. Against the backdrop of the current Multiannual Financial Framework, there have been unwelcome statements from several quarters, particularly the UK government which has been pushing for an unacceptable cut in the general EU budget which would have serious implications for CAP. From my reading of the situation, it is utter obstructionist populism from Prime Minister Cameron, who is playing politics with people's livelihoods. • Those who wish to reduce funding for agriculture, need to be made understand the importance of the programme to millions of families across Europe. The facts in relation to CAP funding do not need to be rehashed but UK negotiators and others need to bear in mind that under the last budgetary framework that while the number of member states increased, funding for programmes such as CAP did not. The current proposal already proposes no increase in CAP funding despite the possibility of new member states joining the EU over the course of its seven year lifetime. • The Common Agricultural Policy has delivered sustainable, high quality, secure food supply for Europe based in the family farm and to attack it shows a worrying lack of understanding of agricultural and rural issues. It is our only tool in guaranteeing a sustainable, secure, cheap and high quality food supply for all European citizens, both urban and rural, and all leaders involved in budgetary negotiations need to recognise this.
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CAP Update Fairer Distribution of EU funding Agricultural funding should be distributed more fairly amongst categories of farmers. Current inequitable irregularities should be addressed head on to the benefit of the average farmer. Flattening of payments of the SFP indiscriminately as per the Commission's proposals is unacceptable and I fear that Commissioner Ciolos has yet to appreciate this. He, along with other policy makers, must remain cognisant of the fact that over 100% of family farm incomes on livestock farms in a normal year comprise direct payments. Such a fundamental income stream cannot be toyed with in such a careless manner.
Disadvantaged Areas Scheme I welcome the fact that the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme payments started on time in September. The first round of payments worth €154 million will benefit 74,000 Irish families. • The DAS has been a core part of CAP Rural Development Policy for many years. Its importance cannot be understated. It is a vital support for farm incomes which recognises the natural difficulties which farmers face. • Under the current CAP proposals, while the scheme is set to be renamed, its objectives will remain the same and it will continue as a central part of CAP Pillar 2.
Agriculture is leading the way on the road to economic recovery • Export figures are encouraging with the Agri-food sector exporting €8.8 billion, constituting an increase of roughly 12%, with dairy sector exports up an impressive 17%. • the Irish economy is currently undergoing a structural rebalancing where exports such as agricultural products will form an integral part of a sustainable economic growth path
Farm Incomes While 2011 showed a noticeable rise in farm incomes, this was in reality a recovery from the 2009 blow to incomes. 2012 has seen another erosion in farm incomes as a result of the horrible summer. It must be borne in mind by all policy makers and, in particular by CAP negotiators, that the Single Farm Payment, REPS and Disadvantaged and Designated areas schemes are the only real safety net for thousands of families in Ireland and millions across Europe.
Sean at the National Ploughing Championships with Aisling Fennin, Kildare.
Sean at the National Ploughing Championships with Nuala Hickey, Hickey's Bakery, Clonmel.
• Agriculture spending accounts for 41% of the EU's annual budget and has been at the heart of EU policy since the start. • The Common Agriculture Policy is always on the agenda in the European Union and nothing is more important that ensuring that Irish Agriculture gets as good a deal as possible. • The negotiations for the 2014 2020 period are well underway. While various options are on the table, the negotiations are taking place against a very difficult fiscal background on one side and a drop in farming incomes, issues surrounding food security and environmental factors. • There are constant attempts to slash the budget and gut CAP but Irish negotiators along with many allies across the EU are holding firm for an equitable, realistic budgetary settlement ensuring the future of European agriculture. • In medium and long term, while support for farmers has to be at the core of a thriving Irish agricultural sector, it is quality and competitiveness that will determine our future prosperity. Irish agriculture is optimally placed in terms of our quality being recognised. • The Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee of the European Parliament will vote on CAP on January 23/24 2013 -much work remains to be done between now and then
CAP Priorities My Priorities for the new CAP
• • • •
a fair deal for Irish farmers protecting the family farm simplification a realistic, practical CAP that supports agriculture not hinder it with new layer of red tape and restrictions • ensuring that advance payments being made this year become the norm in future • Supporting young farmers - only 7% of EU farmers are under 35 • easing the potential burdens on Irish farmers in respect of greening • defending the CAP budget • guaranteeing a sustainable, secure, cheap and high quality food supply for all European citizens
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Revival of Sugar Industry I have been working at European level since becoming an MEP towards the restoration of the Irish sugar industry, once valued at â‚Ź150 million per year. This work has included tabling key amendments to the CAP proposals designed to enable the revival of the Irish sugar beet sector and meetings with relevant Commissioners. The business case is very strong and under the right circumstances the industry could be back on its feet by 2015 employing over 4,000 people. The likely extension of the quota system to 2020 gives Ireland the opportunity to re-establish the sugar industry which must be seized. Sean with Inge Van Oost, DG Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission, and Dr Tom Kelly, Director of Knowledge Transfer, Teagasc, at the Teagasc Best Practice.
Strengthening Advisory Services and Supporting Innovation
I will continue to do all I can at EU level to support the return of a prosperous sugar beet sector to Ireland South which has suffered hugely from its loss.
I had the honour of opening the Teagasc Conference, at the Aviva Stadium, focusing on Best Practice in Extension Services -Supporting Farmer Innovation. It was a stimulating presentation of developments and thought-provoking exchange of views on how farmer advisory and support services can best support and foster farmer innovation. The importance of evaluating ideas, discussing a multitude of different approaches, cross-sectional cooperation and collaboration can never be understated. It is this dissemination of ideas and experience which we will hear about today and the willingness of Irish agricultural stakeholders to come together and share methods and experiences that makes me confident for the future prosperity of the Irish agricultural sector. Agriculture like all other sectors of the economy needs to innovate to compete in the global marketplace. Irish agriculture is fortunate in having an organisation such as Teagasc in place empowering the sector and orientating it towards sustainable growth and high quality produce through education and support for research and innovation. What sets Ireland apart is that such support is not restricted to the farmyard but extends beyond it enabling Irish agri-enterprises to succeed globally. While the ongoing negotiations of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy are presenting major difficulties for Ireland, however, there are some elements within the Commission's proposals which are encouraging such as elements focusing on maintaining competitiveness and sustainability of an European agricultural sector based on the farm, which in Ireland, means the family farm. The recognition that supporting innovation in farming on a European level shows how far we have come from the days of the "wine lakes" and "butter mountains".
Sean with Christina Ryan, PhD Sc. Innovation, Teagasc at the Teagasc Best Practice in Extension Services Conference at the Aviva Stadium in November.