NI AGRICULTURE Minister Michelle O’Neill has welcomed the outline agreement on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Reform reached last night (Tuesday , between EU Agriculture Ministers.
Speaking from the European Council building in Luxembourg, the Minister said: “After 18 months of negotiation culminating in two days of intense activity in Luxembourg, a revised negotiating mandate has been reached on the future shape of the CAP. This will be taken to Brussels today, Wednesday, for a meeting with the European Parliament Agriculture Committee to secure a final deal.”
The Minister continued: “Last April I travelled to Brussels to present my response to the initial Commission proposals and to set out my ideas on how they should be modified to meet better the needs of the industry and other stakeholders in the north of Ireland. I am delighted to say that the final position reached in Council is very similar in many respects to the position I set out.
“In terms of the transition of support towards a flat rate regime, the agreement will allow us to plot an orderly movement towards flat rate support which balances the various sectoral interests. The greening arrangements are much more suited to the needs of grass based agriculture. The ability to monitor permanent grassland at regional level rather than at individual farmer level as originally proposed, avoids an unnecessary bureaucratic burden for both farmers and administrators. The thresholds for crop diversification and Ecological Focus Areas have been raised and again, are much more suited to the circumstances of grassland agriculture.
“One hugely significant issue was securing the ability to take implementation decisions at a regional level. This means that decisions in the north of Ireland can be taken locally without impinging on decisions being taken in other regions and vice versa. That is a very important achievement which allows us to shape the implementation of the support framework to meet the balance of local needs.
“One disappointment was on the issue of active farmers. I wanted the ability to confine agricultural support to genuine farmers. I know that I had the support of the Presidency and the European Parliament on this issue and I pushed this matter very hard right up to the very end. Unfortunately the Commission was completely immovable on this issue and the logic of its opposition completely escapes me. The battle now moves to Brussels and we have been working very hard to ensure that MEPs have all the necessary information and arguments to make one final push on this issue.”
“The focus of the negotiation’s process now shifts to Brussels and the final meeting between the Presidency and the European Parliament Agriculture Committee. I very much hope that the Council deal thrashed out over the past two days is agreed by the Parliament and we can then move on to the next stage, which is to bring this home and start to work through the implementation options that we will have. This will be a hugely challenging process and I will want to work closely with the full range of stakeholder interests who will wish to be involved in this process,” added Minister O’Neill.