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CEO's Blog 25 February 2013

Scott Walker

With Ireland holding the EU Presidency and seeking to reach a political agreement from EU Farm Ministers on CAP reform by the end of March, Nigel and I attended a meeting of EU farming Unions in Dublin hosted by the Irish Farmers Association.   

Simon Coveney was to speak to the gathered EU farming Unions but with his wife just haven given birth to a baby daughter, Aidon O'Driscoll from the Irish Department of Agriculture and Food stood in.

Mr O'Driscoll outlined Ireland's ambitious growth targets for its food industry and outlined the Irish Presidency timetable to reach agreement on CAP reform.   

The Farming Ministers meetings in February and March will be used to reach a political agreement and will then be followed by meetings with the Commission and the European Parliament with a final agreement in June.

While recognising this is an ambitious timetable, the Irish Presidency will be tabling a package of measures at the Farm Ministers Council meeting today (Monday 25 Feb) in order to reach agreement on how direct payments to farmers should be paid.   A key aspect of the Irish Presidency appears to be introducing some more flexibility into the rules on how payments can be made.

Following this, a package of measures on greening will be put forward to the March Farm Ministers Council meeting in order to reach agreement on greening.

Given the wide range of views expressed by the different farming Unions, it will be amazing if any agreement will deliver an outcome that will keep all the EU farming Unions happy.   And if the views being expressed by the Unions in any way resemble the different points of view that each of the 27 agricultural Ministers will be expressing at their Council meeting then the Irish Presidency has a difficult job ahead to find compromises that address the issues of all 27 member states.
During the meeting in Dublin we met and agreed a paper with a number of other EU farming Unions that, if accepted and agreed by the EU Farm Minster, would give another option to Scotland on how it may deal with the move away from historic payments.

The agreement signed by other farming organisations and us proposes that individual area payments in any region could fall within a range rather than a single rate, lowering the impact of redistribution.

This model – known colloquially as the Irish tunnel – provides another option to manage the transition to area based payments.

This option may give Scotland a tool that is more sensitive to the variation in systems and the intensity of production, which is a feature of Scotland’s farming industry.

At this late stage in the reform debate, it is still unclear what tools will be available during the new CAP period. However, the initiative that has emerged in Dublin is an important step towards securing a greater degree of flexibility. A package of delivery options gives us the best chance to use the Scottish budget effectively and avoid levels of support redistribution that could potentially impact on the viability of some of our farming businesses.

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