Ireland North & West MEP Marian Harkin today (26 June) described the final deal on CAP reform as "a reasonable compromise which contains enough flexibility to safeguard the future of Irish farmers on both good and marginal land".
Following months of mammoth negotiations between the Irish EU Presidency and MEPs, Harkin argued that the final agreement "contains enough sensible measures and - crucially - enough policy flexibility to deserve the supports of the Irish farming organisations".
"The initial Commission proposal had a number of flaws," she said, adding that "thankfully, some of Commissioner Ciolos' plans, which would have wreaked havoc in Ireland, have been softened by sensible amendments from MEPs and the Irish Presidency".
Assessing the final proposal, Harkin said: "the first thing to note is that, while there will be an overall cut of 10% to the 7-year EU Budget, the Single Farm Payment (SFP) only stands to be cut by 3% - this is a significant achievement for the EU Parliament and Commission, and means Ireland will have €1.2bn per annum for CAP payments.
"Secondly, the crucial issue of how to best administer payments to farmers allows for flexibility between the French model (with frontloading on a certain number of Hectares) or the Irish model (a minimum of 60% of the national average SFP per hectare, which in Ireland means no farmer would receive less than 150/Hectare, and there is an option that no farmer would be allowed to lose more than 30% of their existing payment).
"Thirdly, the level for coupled payments fior Ireland will be up to 8% - a good outcome which gives our Agriculture Minister an efficient set of tools to support certain types of production, where necessary.
"Fourthly, a mandatory proportion of national envelopes (up to 2%) is set aside for young farmers, which is a positive outcome for countries like Ireland where agricultural demographics have been worrying for a number of years. There is also an option for new entrants to receive SFP for the first time.
"Milk quotas will be gone by 2015, providing welcome certainty for the Irish dairy sector as it plans for the future.
"Finally, a number of issues remain unresolved: flexibility between pillars, capping of payments, and the crisis reserve.
The Ireland North & West MEP concluded that "this deal finally breaks the link with the 2000-2002 reference years and - most vitally - the flexibility afforded to each EU Member State means that every one should be able to devise a policy mix best suited to the particular needs of its agricultural sector.
"I commend the tireless work of the Irish EU Presidency for having the staying power to conclude this deal, and I look forward to working with my fellow Irish MEPs to ensure that Minister Coveney constructs the best possible payment schemes for active Irish farmers on both good and marginal land".
Marian Harkin is a member of the Agriculture Committee in the European Parliament.