CAP countdown begins - President in Europe for negotiations

Thursday, 20 June, 2013

Ulster Farmers’ Union President Harry Sinclair will travel to Luxembourg and Brussels next week to represent local farmers’ views in, what is hoped to be, the final stages of the European negotiations of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) reform process.

Harry Sinclair said; “We are now entering a critical and intense stage in the CAP reform process and the clock is ticking as the 30 June deadline, set by the Irish Presidency, approaches. I think everyone wants to see a deal finalised and for us it’s important that it is the ‘right’ deal that is agreed. In the run up to next week, I have been meeting with our MEPs and speaking with Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill and her department officials to ensure they have no doubts as to what Northern Ireland’s farmers need from this CAP deal.

“There are still a number of key issues that need addressed. We still do not have enough clarity around the term ‘Active Farmer’,  the issue of greening implementation is becoming more confusing, and we are still not fully confident the permanent grassland retention and first ploughing ban proposals will not adversely impact on our traditional grassland farming systems. We also want to see agreement on a longer and smoother transition period towards a flatter rate payment and to have the option for regional flexibility. The distribution of the UK’s CAP budget, on which we expect a decision soon, also remains a bone of contention with the Scottish Executive calling for funds to be redistributed to Scottish farmers. Their argument is easily dismantled, however, when you remember the primary aim of direct payments is to support agricultural production and active farm businesses, not to increase direct payments across countless acres of unproductive land. We believe there are strong arguments which support the continuation of the current system of allocating funds across the UK regions, not least of which is that the current system broadly reflects each area’s agricultural productive capacity.

“The hope is that by the end of next week, the EU Parliament, EU Commission and EU Agriculture Council will agree a final CAP deal. Northern Ireland’s farmers will be well represented as my UFU colleagues and I, along with our Agriculture Minister and MEPs, work hard behind the scene to ensure that the final CAP deal is right for Northern Ireland’s farmers.”

Mr. Sinclair, along with Policy Director Wesley Aston, will be in Luxembourg at the start of the week when the EU Agriculture Council meets. Mr Sinclair will then travel to Brussels, where he will be joined by Chief Executive Clarke Black, for a crucial meeting of the EU Parliament’s Agriculture Committee.