Farm Commissioner pushes for 2013 CAP reform deal
Published: 27 Sep 2012 13:000 comments
Speaking to Northern Ireland agricultural journalists during his first visit to Northern Ireland on Thursday last, he hoped there would be a deal on the budget before the end of 2012 and then a deal on the reform proposals during the Irish Presidency between January and June next year.
He said the Commission would be starting on implementing the reforms such as preparing drafts, even before official agreements.
This will be the first CAP reform as a result of co-decision by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers.
Mr. Jim Nicholson MEP who invited the Commissioner to Northern Ireland, said it was in the agricultural industry's interests to have an early agreement. However he revealed that the European Parliament had already submitted 5,000 amendments to the original proposals.
The Commissioner hinted strongly that regions such as Northern Ireland would have flexibility built in for areas such as greening. He explained that if there was a strong level of agri-environment schemes already there, as was evidenced by several people during a later meeting in the Greenmount Conference Hall, then farmers could apply that against greening measures in the proposals. He said the proposals on greening were on the table to ensure all 27 Member States implemented some level of greening.
Speaking to the agricultural press including the Impartial Reporter, the Commissioner said the CAP Reform proposals needed to tackle the major challenge of young farmers . He quoted how at present only 14% of farmers in the 27 Member States were less than 40 years old and only 6% were less than 35 years.
"We need to act now. This is why w proposed to put in place at European level, a pro-active policy to support the entrance of new farmers in the agricultural sector with new tools both in the first and in the second pillar of the CAP," he stated.
He also said that there would be a five-year top up for young farmers to make it easier for them to invest in their farms.
Later, during an address and question and answer session with students, MLAs and representatives of farm organisations, he highlighted the need to have a strong farming sector where people in rural areas would have a good qualiy of life. But he said they must have more research and innovation and more advisory services in those rural areas.
"We want to give farmers instruments to be competitive and to improve their quality of life," he said.
On the future of flat rate payments, the Commissioner said they could not continue with historical references and especially if young farmers inherited farms with a low level of support.
Answering Mr. John Sheridan, Chairman of the UFU's Hill Farming Committee on what was the definition of an active farmer, the Commissioner, said they had to to avoid paying substantial support to landowners who did not engage in an agricultural activity. Through the proposals they were trying to find a way to link the payments directly to those producing from the land.
Again this would differ between Member States.