Ireland has been a net beneficiary from the EU Budget since accession in 1973 and the majority of funding we’ve received has come through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
In fact, a significant portion of the EU budget is spent on agriculture but that’s because the CAP is the only policy almost entirely financed from EU funds.
The money is spent on areas such as direct support payments to farmers and market support to the agricultural sector. Funds are also used for rural development or LEADER programmes that help protect small, local communities around Ireland.
It provides good value for money for citizens and taxpayers because EU spending replaces or subsidises, to a large extent, national spending.
The money is more of an investment today than it was in the past as over the years successive reforms of the CAP have seen financial support moved away from incentives for production to direct income support for farmers, provided they respect strict safety, health and environmental standards, and for projects that stimulate economic activity in rural areas.
With little room left for expanding agricultural land in Europe, productivity growth in the future has to come through innovation and research and the CAP can help Irish farmers embrace new production methods so this traditional industry can meet the challenges of today’s modern world.
These new challenges include food security. Experts estimate that food production will have to double in order to feed a world population of nine billion people in 2050.
However, this has to be done in a sustainable way, as climate change has presented the additional challenges of carefully managing natural resources and protecting the countryside to ensure rural economies in Ireland and right across the EU survive well into the future.
And the CAP is designed to do just that.
Here are some of the important issues the CAP addresses:
1. FOOD SECURITY
It’s easy to take food for granted in modern Ireland. Thankfully, we don’t experience food shortages here but inadequate food security can impact on food prices everywhere.
Throughout the world issues like climate change, oil shortages and the availability of quality land and water are challenging the planet's capacity to produce enough food for everyone.
Ireland as a major food exporting country with comparatively abundant natural resources is well placed to increase food production and exports to meet growing demand.
The CAP is designed to ensure food security so all Irish and European citizens can have access to a constant, reliable supply of affordable food.
2. FOOD QUALITY:
The CAP also helps guarantee that Europe’s consumers get food that's safe and wholesome. There are tough EU rules on the safety of food and animal feed and consumers can easily determine where the food they purchase has come from and what it contains.
EU rules also guarantee that organic farming products are genuine, while the CAP offers specific encouragement for farmers to convert to organic farming as well as incentives to improve the quality of their produce. Organic farmers and food producers are encouraged to use the EU organic logo where at least 95% of the product’s ingredients have been organically produced and it complies with the rules of an official inspection scheme.
Ireland’s Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014-2020 is co-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EARDF) and the national Exchequer. A central priority of the Irish RDP is restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems related to agriculture and forestry. Three quarters of the total funding is allocated to this priority, targeting over a million hectares of agricultural area.
4. THE ENVIORNMENT:
Under EU rules farmers must respect environmental laws and look after their land in a sustainable way if they want to qualify for direct income payments – an important aspect of the CAP. Financial aid from the CAP is targeted at rural development measures that promote environmentally sustainable farming practices, like agri-environment schemes.
EU leaders have asked the European Commission to establish a new policy to include land use and forestry into the 2030 EU greenhouse gas mitigation framework.
The agri-food sector is one of Ireland's most important industries, and accounts for 8.5% of employment, 12.7% of exports and 7.2% of Gross Value Added.
In 2014, Irish agri-food and drink exports increased by an estimated 4% to approximately €10.5bn. This represented a new high for exports and marks cumulative growth of 45%, or €3.2 billion, since 2009.
The share of exports to the UK was 40%. A further 31% went to other European markets while shipments of Irish food and drink products to international markets increased by 15% in 2014 to 29%.