Representation in Ireland



Image of EU and UK flags

In an address on Brexit preparedness in the area of Agriculture this morning (8 April), EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan said: "...there has been a heightened risk of a ‘no-deal' Brexit in recent days and recent months and our planning has had to take this into account. Of course, common sense may still prevail and this scenario may yet be averted, bearing in mind the shared commitment to protect the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. We have planned well for such circumstances and I am confident that we have the wherewithal to respond effectively and comprehensively, when required.

Scroll down for the full text of the Commissioner's address.


Good morning.

This morning, I want to give you some details of the contingency planning that we have been doing in relation to the potential impact of Brexit on the EU agri-food sector.

You have been extensively briefed on the preparedness work undertaken by the Commission over the last eighteen months or so and I don't intend to repeat that ground. In addition to this press conference, you will also have an opportunity for a follow-up technical briefing.

So already, the first Brexit date has passed and we are now just two days away from yet another crucial European Council and, potentially, four days away from the UK's departure from the EU.

So, we still can't say when and in what circumstances the UK will leave the EU. That lack of clarity complicates our Brexit contingency planning, not least because the circumstances in which the UK leaves and the consequences of those circumstances will influence significantly the EU's response.

However, and though it still may not happen, there has been a heightened risk of a ‘no-deal' Brexit in recent days and recent months and our planning has had to take this into account. Of course, common sense may still prevail and this scenario may yet be averted, bearing in mind the shared commitment to protect the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

We have planned well for such circumstances and I am confident that we have the wherewithal to respond effectively and comprehensively, when required.

The European Commission has considerable experience in deploying market support measures on occasions of significant market disturbance, especially in the agri-food area. And unfortunately, this is the case because agriculture is exposed to geopolitical and severe climate/weather-related events, which can have a significant impact on markets and farmgate prices.

The initial phase of our planning is focused on ensuring that we have the necessary legal basis for the deployment of appropriate market measures and, having thoroughly reviewed the Common Market Organisation's provisions of the Common Agricultural Policy, we are confident that we have such a reliable legal basis.

The publication by the United Kingdom of its proposed tariff schedule in recent weeks enabled us to develop our contingency planning also. For the first time, we get some clarity from the United Kingdom about the likely impact of the application of zero duty tariff rate quotas (TRQs) and the imposition of tariffs on a limited range of products. We have, of course, also noted the UK's intentions in relation to trade on the island of Ireland and the temporary nature of the tariff schedule.

One of the difficulties that we have is that the details that have been provided so far are set out only in what is essentially a concept paper and we still lack clarity and the details of the necessary legislation to see how this regime will operate in practice.

Using the information on its tariff schedule, made available by the UK authorities, the Commission has updated its Market Access Database to include the United Kingdom. This Database provides information on duties and taxes that apply to exports to trade partners such as the USA, China etc. The update is part of our efforts to help EU exporters deal with the new situation with which they may soon be confronted. The Commission is continuing to monitor these developments and will update this information as often as possible and as is required.

However, the published tariff schedule includes relatively high tariffs on a number of animal products, such as beef, poultry, pigmeat and cheese as well as such products as sugar and rice. It is clear that a number of Member States will bear the brunt of these proposed tariffs, because of their exposure already to the UK market for those products.

The EU-27 and the UK are very significant trading partners. The EU-27 enjoys a €25 billion surplus today with the UK in agri-food products, with exports of some €41 billion on an annual basis. This surplus is higher than the current overall EU-28 trade surplus of €21 billion with the rest of the world.

However, one should not underestimate the importance of the EU market for the UK. Given that the EU will treat the UK as any other third country, with the application of tariffs and SPS checks, this presents a significant challenge for UK producers and exporters.

Today, we are talking about a no-deal scenario, in which case what we can say with certainty is that there will be significant disruption to certain agricultural markets.

Confident in that knowledge and if left unchecked, we have to come to the conclusion that the European Commission has a legal obligation to intervene and we will. Early intervention has the benefit of providing not alone support to our farmers, but gives confidence to the market of the Commission's commitment to the agri-food sector and avoids the development of a potentially much bigger crisis in the longer-term.

In terms of precisely how we might intervene, we have a suite of measures available in our legislation and we are satisfied that we have an appropriately-stocked toolbox from which we will work. This will be discussed by the College on Wednesday.

Without being prescriptive at this stage to the outcome of the College meeting, I anticipate a mix of measures designed to suit particular circumstances and products. A mix of some or all of public intervention, private storage aid, withdrawal schemes and targeted aid will form the package of support.

In addition to these measures, we are also looking at state aid rules, in which case it will be for the Member States to provide support. Just recently, the Commission adopted a new Regulation which has provided for an increase of 66 per cent in the level of de minimis support that can be granted in the agricultural sector through state aid.

There are also opportunities for Member States to propose amendments to their Rural Development Programmes to redirect support to beneficiaries which have been most affected by Brexit, though I acknowledge that the scope here might be limited because many commitments may already have been made.

We have had a number of discussions with Member States and other key stakeholders about the impact of Brexit and the ways in which the Commission can best assist. This engagement is continuing and, apart from the obvious impact of tariffs, we are also looking, with the Member States, to the difficulties that may arise from logistical delays, customs formalities, sanitary and phytosanitary checks etc. These issues have been addressed in previous briefings and press conferences in recent days.

I am also engaged of course fully with the budget Commisioner, Commissioner Oettinger and his services. I am grateful to him, Mr Oettinger, for his understanding of the particular threat posed to the agri-food sector and for his consistent support for this sector in this and in previous crises.

Equally, I understand fully the budgetary constraints within which he has to work, which will of course be made more difficult in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Much of the food that is exported to the UK is fresh food and, therefore, perishable, with little or no scope for delays at ports. So, just because tariffs may not be applied, we cannot underestimate or indeed assume that such products will not be caught-up in severe logistical disruptions, particularly in the early weeks. In the case of trade to or through the UK, we have noted their stated intention to maintain ‘business as usual', but the question has to be asked just how can that be achieved?

I want to conclude by saying that I am confident that our planning is on-track to enable us to respond effectively and quickly to Brexit and, particularly, to a no-deal Brexit. We will continue to refine our contingency plans in the light of the continuing analysis and engagement with the Member States, our engagement with stakeholders and with my colleagues in the Commission but also with the evolving political situation in the United Kingdom.


Further Information

More information about agri-food trade between the EU and the UK and contingency planning in the area of agriculture can be found here


Cows being milked

The ceiling for national support to farmers will rise significantly, allowing greater flexibility and efficiency, notably in times of crisis and situations demanding a swift response by the public authorities.

Today the Commission has adopted revised rules on state aid in the agriculture sector (the so-called de minimis aid), increasing the maximum amount that national authorities can use to support farmers without the need for prior approval from the Commission. This decision will allow EU countries to increase support for farmers without distorting the market, while reducing the administrative burden for national authorities.


Agriculture and rural development Commissioner Phil Hogan said: "The Commission's proposal for new state aid rules for the agricultural sector reflects the value of this form of support in times of crisis. By increasing the maximum aid amount to farmers, national authorities will have more flexibility and be able to react more quickly and more effectively to support vulnerable farmers. In some cases, the amount of State aid that can be provided to individual farmers will be increased by 66%. These new rules will continue to accompany the normal rules for notified State aid, which Member States may continue to apply."

The maximum aid amount that can be distributed per farm over three years will rise from €15,000 to €20,000. In order to avoid any potential distortion of competition, each EU country has a maximum national amount which they cannot exceed. Each national ceiling will be set at 1.25% of the country's annual agricultural output over the same three-year period (up from 1% in the current rules). This is an increase in the national ceiling of 25%.

If a country does not spend more than 50% of its total national aid envelope on one particular agricultural sector, it may increase even further the de minimis aid per farm to €25,000, and the national maximum to 1.5% of the annual output. This represents a 66% increase in the ceiling per farmer and a 50% increase in the national ceiling.

For countries that do opt for that highest ceiling, the new rules require the creation of mandatory central registers at national level. This will allow keeping track of the aids granted in order to simplify and improve the delivery and monitoring of the so-called de minimis aid. Several Member States already maintain such registers, which will allow them to apply the higher ceilings immediately.

The increased ceilings come into force on 14 March and can apply retroactively to aids fulfilling all the conditions.


In EU state aid rules, EU countries shall notify state aid to the Commission and may not implement the aid measure until it has been authorised by the Commission. However, when the aid amounts are small enough, which is the case for the de minimis aid, EU countries do not need to notify or get authorisation from the Commission. Due to their size, the aid does not threaten competition and trade in the internal market.

The de minimis aid is typically used by Member States when they need to act quickly without setting up a scheme in accordance with state aid rules, notably in times of crisis. It is also commonly used for very specific purpose, for example to help prevent or eradicate animal diseases as soon as an outbreak occurs, or to compensate farmers for damages caused by animals that are not protected under EU or national law such as wild boars. The damages caused by protected species of animals (wolves, lynx, bears, etc) can be compensated under notified state aid rules.

The Commission consulted Member States and stakeholders to provide input on the revision of the de minimis rules. Those contributions were taken into account when finalising the amendments.

For More Information

State aid in the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas

Consultation on the de minimis Regulation




The European Commission is standing by Europe's farmers this summer, as they grapple with the difficulties of extreme droughts.

Farmers will be able to receive their direct and rural development payments in advance and will be granted more flexibility to use land that would normally not be used for production, in order to feed their animals.


The ongoing and prolonged drought situation in several EU countries is having a significant impact on the production of arable crops, as well as animal feed which could also have an impact on animal welfare. In addition, the reduction in the level of animal feed is having a particular impact on the income of livestock farmers, as this will increase their input costs if there is a shortage of fodder later in the year.

Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, said: "I am very concerned about these prolonged climatic developments. I have been in contact with a number of ministers from affected countries to discuss the situation and get up-to-date assessments of its impact. The Commission, as always, is ready to support farmers affected by drought using a number of instruments, including higher advance payments, derogations from greening requirements and state aid. The Common Agricultural Policy already provides a safety net for farmers who have to deal with unpredictable events. I am encouraging all Member States to look into all possible actions and measures provided for in our legislation."

Two specific decisions have been taken to help farmers deal with droughts, in addition to support under the existing Common Agricultural Policy legislation:

  • Higher advanced payments: farmers will be able to receive up to 70% of their direct payment and 85% of payments under rural development already as of mid-October 2018 instead of waiting until December to improve their cash flow situation;
  • Derogations from specific greening requirements, namely crop diversification and ecological focus area rules on land lying fallow, to allow such land to be used for the production of animal feed. Consideration is also being given to the adoption of further derogations to greening to allow farmers more flexibility to produce fodder. These measures will be of particular benefit to livestock farmers.

Existing support under the CAP

Under existing agricultural state aid rules, aid of up to 80% of the damage caused by drought (or up to 90% in Areas of Natural Constraint) can be provided, subject to certain specific conditions. The purchase of fodder can qualify for aid as either material damage or income loss.

Compensation for damage can also be granted without the need to notify the Commission (the so-called "de minimis aid"). Member States may grant aid of up to €15 000 per farmer over three years.

With regards to Rural Development, a range of possibilities is provided for in the current CAP legislation:

  • Where a Member State recognises the drought situation as a 'natural disaster', they may provide support of up to 100% for the restoration of agricultural production potential damaged by the drought. The money can be used for investments such as the re-seeding of pastures for example. This measure can be activated retroactively;
  • Farmers can notify their respective national authorities about cases of exceptional circumstances, and may be released by their Member State from their commitments under various schemes. For example, farmers will be allowed to use buffer strips for fodder;
  • Member States can support farmers through risk management instruments. For example, they can financially contribute to mutual funds to pay financial compensation to affected farmers. Also, farmers who experience an income loss beyond 30% of their average annual income will receive a financial compensation.

Member States have the possibility to modify their rural development programme once a year to include one of the measures set out above.

In addition to these measures and the continuous monitoring of the drought situation and its impact with European satellites, the Commission is in contact with all Member States to receive updated information of the impact of the spring and summer drought on their farmers. The information, which is requested by 31 August, will be used to assess the adequacy and appropriateness of the Commission's response and to inform any decisions about the modification of the measures already taken or in relation to any additional measures which may be considered appropriate.

For more information

Monitoring Agricultural ResourceS (MARS) Bulletins


Commissioner Hogan speaks at "The CAP - Have your say" conference

Agricultural policy is best managed at the EU level, focusing on core issues of support for farmers and environmental protection - this is one of the key results from the recent public consultation on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy unveiled in Brussels today.

Speaking at "The CAP - have your say" event in Brussels this morning, Commissioner Phil Hogan identified what he said were four key takeaways from the process. He said: "We can see from the results that Europeans want high quality food; Europeans want farmers to do more to protect the environment; Europeans want more investment in rural areas, and, I am pleased to see, two-thirds of farmers are willing to do more for climate and the environment."


The public consultation published today received more than 322,000 submissions from a wide range of stakeholders, including farmers, citizens, organisations and other interested parties

Commissioner Phil Hogan continued: "Today is another milestone on the journey towards the future of the Common Agricultural Policy and an opportunity for stakeholders to contribute further to the debate. The response to the public consultation shows the level of interest that there is in the CAP, which continues to support a dynamic agricultural sector, ensures safe and high quality food for 508 million citizens and provides for significant investment in rural areas."

Citizens' views

The high level of participation in the consultation shows that agriculture and its role in society has become an increasingly important issue for many European citizens. The vast majority of respondents (90%) are also clear that there is a real added-value in managing agricultural policy at the European level, as it ensures a level playing field within the single market and ensures that agriculture can respond more effectively to the shared challenges such as environmental protection (85%) and tackling climate change (73%). The need to maintain economic, social and territorial cohesion across the EU (86%) as well as the need for a common framework of sharing best practices (91%) was also frequently mentioned.

Clear aims

The findings of the consultation are also clear about what the Common Agricultural Policy should achieve. Ensuring a fair standard of living for farmers is a key demand, with a majority of respondents (88%) recognising that farm incomes are lower than the EU average and that farmers receive only a small amount of the final consumer price for food (97%). Direct income support for farmers is considered the best way to achieve this (66% of respondents).

The other main aim of the CAP should be to ensure that farmers are encouraged to play their part in tackling climate change and protecting the environment, protecting biodiversity, reducing soil degradation and ensuring a more sustainable use of pesticides and fertilisers.

It is also clear from the findings that citizens and farmers alike want the future CAP to be simpler and less bureaucratic in order to more effectively rise to these challenges.

The findings of the consultation will feed into the Commission's ongoing reflection on the future of food and farming. A Communication on modernising and simplifying the CAP will follow an impact assessment of possible future policy proposals.


The online public consultation on modernising and simplifying the CAP was launched on 2 February 2017 and ran until 2 May 2017. It was open to all interested citizens and organisations and organised through a questionnaire in all 23 official EU languages.

The aim of the consultation was to gather views from farmers, organisations and any other interested parties on three main issues: agriculture, rural areas and the CAP today; objectives and governance of the CAP; and agriculture, rural areas and the CAP tomorrow. It included 28 closed questions (multiple choice), five open questions and the possibility to upload position papers.

For More Information

All replies to the consultation and a summary of the results will be published here.

"The CAP: Have your say" – conference reports and documents will be available here.


Press contacts:
Daniel ROSARIO (+ 32 2 295 61 85)
Clemence ROBIN (+32 2 29 52509)


Commissioner Hogan addressing the IFA event

In an address today to an IFA event on the implications of Brexit for Irish farmers, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said: "I know from talking to my colleague Commissioners, including, as I mentioned, President Juncker, that the issues for Ireland are also well understood in the College and I know too that the Irish MEPs have left no stone unturned in ensuring that there is a greater understanding in the European Parliament of the consequences for Ireland. As a result of such representations, it is laudable and remarkable that Ireland is listed as one of the three main EU negotiating priorities by Mr Barnier, the others being the status of EU citizens and the divorce bill. This is a good first step and it is an excellent example of how good political connectivity with large political groups is essential in Brussels."

Read the full text of Commissioner Hogan's speech below.



Mr President, Minister, First Vice-President of the European Parliament, MEPs, Members of the Oireachtas, public representatives, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this Forum today.

I want to thank the IFA for having organised this event and for the invitation to speak and to your new General Secretary, Damian McDonald, thank you for your introduction and for having set the scene.

Brexit is the most complex economic, political and in some ways cultural challenge to face Ireland, the UK, and the broader European Union in many generations.

It is an era-defining issue that we must each approach from a variety of interconnected perspectives. From the perspective of protecting the business foundations of the Irish and EU farming and agri-food sector; from the perspective of building a 27-member CAP without the UK; and of course, from the perspective of Irish citizens wanting the best for their families and the nation.

You have assembled a very impressive range of speakers and contributors, all of whom will bring a different perspective to the day's proceedings. In that respect, what I propose to do is to provide a 'voice from Brussels', something that I'm sure European Parliament First Vice-President Mairead McGuinness will also do. While I'm coming at it principally from the Commission's perspective, Mairead will be able to give you a unique insight into the Parliament's very important role in the process.

The European Council will meet on Saturday to adopt the negotiating guidelines. Negotiations with the UK should start next month.

I welcome today's Forum because it is vitally important that the issues concerning Brexit and its consequences are properly discussed and debated, notwithstanding that there are still infinitely more questions than there are answers.  I know that the sector has been very active in recent months, including through the All-Island Dialogues on Agriculture and Fisheries, for which Minister Creed's role should be acknowledged.

I also want to welcome the IFA's Policy Paper, which I regard as a very constructive contribution to the debate. The paper identifies the key issues and priorities for the Irish farming and agri-food sector. I am pleased that you have had the opportunity to discuss the paper and your concerns directly with the European Union's Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, and members of his Task Force team.

When David Cameron announced the referendum date I engaged directly with farmers and rural stakeholders in all 4 constituencies of the UK to set out the facts to UK farmers and rural communities about what the CAP does and does not provide to them in the current budget period up to 2020. Despite the result, I am glad I took the arguments to the sector.

Between the referendum on the 23rd of June and the notification of their intention to withdraw on the 29th of March, we have not heard much to encourage us from the UK side. However, now that Article 50 has been triggered and the two-year timeframe, provided for in the Treaty is underway I have detected a greater sense of realism in the debate.

Prime Minister May's decision to hold a general election in June adds a further twist to the saga. Elections are inherently unpredictable, but let's hope her decision will strengthen her capacity to face the extremist wing of her party with greater resolve, and continue the trend of realism and common sense that has been apparent since her letter of intent in February. It is to be hoped that Mrs May will choose this prudent course of action, though I must stress that it is by no means guaranteed.

Currently, at least, some of the crazier ideas about crashing out of the EU without a deal, or falling back on WTO rules, are less in evidence. There are still looney voices on the right of the Tory party and in the Tory press which can always be relied on to generate loud and abrasive headlines, but the implications and costs of such scenarios are now, finally, being understood better and more widely.

Up to now, economic rationale has had to take a back seat to political grandstanding. Hopefully we are now seeing more balance and realism.

I have every confidence in Mr Barnier, a man with whom I have come to develop a strong relationship. Personalities matter in this massively complex and sensitive political negotiation, and he is the right man for the job.

Mr Barnier has shown a particularly keen willingness to understand the unique Irish exposure to Brexit, and he has reflected this in all his important public statements to date. In addition, as a rural man and a former Agriculture Minister, he also has an intuitive feel for farmers and the agri-food sector.

As I said, I am encouraged by what I've heard from Prime Minister May and what I've read in her letter of notification of 29 March.

For me, it was significant that, in her March 29 letter, the Prime Minister referred on at least three occasions to "a deep and special partnership" between the UK and the EU. As always of course, the devil is in the detail and it remains to be seen what exactly the UK means by "a deep and special partnership".

In your Policy Document, you identify the optimum outcome as one in which "the UK would remain compliant with the Single Market and Customs Union".  In her statement to Parliament on 17 January, PM May spoke about reaching a completely new customs arrangement and suggested that the UK might become "an associate member of the Customs Union."

In that same speech, she also said that the UK did not want to be bound by the EU's Common External Tariff, which she said are "elements of the Customs Union that prevent us from striking our own comprehensive trade agreements with other countries."

It is clear from everything that the Prime Minister has said, that the UK government is ambitious and determined to pursue its own international trade agenda, through its membership of the WTO. Indeed on the day that the UK notified of its intention to leave, the PM said "we are going to make sure that we can strike trade agreements with countries from outside the European Union".

This aim, based on notions of an Empire 2.0, is somewhat fanciful when you look at the trade-offs the UK would have to submit to in order to do deals around the world. 

Now that these issues are becoming real, we are seeing the inevitable faultlines over different visions of a UK-US trade agreement. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is pushing for agriculture to be included in such discussions claiming that Americans have been eating hormone beef and chlorine chicken perfectly safely for years, so what's all the fuss about? I predict an interesting debate on this. As you know,  the EU has always been very firm on protecting food standards.

Would British farmers and consumers accept hormone beef and chlorine chicken on their supermarket shelves?  I seriously doubt it.  There may yet be a bloodbath over these issues. Meanwhile in the EU we can rest easy in the knowledge that our negotiating weight in trade deals means that our partners rise to our standards, rather than us lowering to theirs.

However, from the point at which we began to see some clarity about the UK's negotiating position, the Prime Minister has been consistent in her support for a free trade agreement with the EU. She said so in her Lancaster House speech on 17 January, in the House of Commons on 29 March and in her letter of notification to President Tusk.

On all three occasions, she used precisely the same language, when she spoke of the pursuit of "a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union." In her 29 March statement to the House of Commons, she went on to refer to such an agreement as one that "allows for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU's Member States." 

It is my hope that, over the course of the coming months, the British government will recognise that the best way to maintain the freest possible trade in goods such as agri-food products is to remain in the Customs Union, and that sense will prevail.

While the UK's decision to leave the European Union is still a matter of regret and, in my view, an error of judgement, it is what it is.

All of us have come to accept the democratic will of the British people and we are all now resolved, in the words of the Confederation of British Industry, to "making a success of Brexit."  For the European Union, that means, as President Tusk said, that "the Union will act as one and preserve its interests."

In a recent speech, Mr Barnier stressed the need for unity of the EU27 and emphasised the priority of reaching "an agreement on the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom, and to prepare the way for a new partnership." However, he also said that, while he agreed with Ms May's ambition for an FTA, this ambition must also apply to "social, fiscal, environmental and consumer protection standards, which European citizens rightly support."

The Prime Minister says she wants to have tariff-free trade with Europe and for cross-border trade to be as frictionless as possible and Mr Barnier agrees that "there will be a free-trade agreement at the centre of this partnership".

Expressing a strong cautionary note, he said that "this free-trade agreement cannot be equivalent to what exists today. And we should all prepare ourselves for that situation."

He went on to say that, following its departure from the EU, "the United Kingdom will naturally find itself in a less favourable situation than that of a Member State."

A lot of 'noise' has been made about the so-called "bill" that the UK faces when leaving the Union. Much of that noise has come as part of an anti-EU right-wing media campaign in the UK, which has fed the British people a diet of misleading and false negativity for over 40 years, so we should hardly be surprised that they are continuing to misinform the people today.

Let's look at the facts. During its 44 years of membership to date and during its remaining two years of membership, the UK has taken and will continue to take financial commitments. These settlements should be honoured in full and this will be an essential element of the negotiations on an orderly withdrawal. As all commitments are taken jointly with the other Member States, if they are not paid for by the UK, the other 27 Member States will have to foot the bill.

There has been considerable speculation about what the amount of the settlement might be, but the truth is that technical work is continuing in the Commission and the other EU institutions, based on objective and verifiable data.

It is clear that the "exit bill" will be the subject of debate, but it is also important to contextualise the figures.

The value of UK trade with the EU is over €600bn per year, the settlement will only be a small fraction of that, paid presumably over several years. Again, as with everything, it can be the tipping point or it can be something dealt with rationally. Let's hope it’s the latter.

Next, let me briefly address Ireland's situation. I have deliberately not strayed too far into the implications of Brexit for Ireland and particularly for Irish farmers and the Irish agri-food business. Your policy paper and similar papers produced by other stakeholders make the point much better than I can.

In a few minutes, your President, Joe Healy, will set out the key challenges facing the sector and the imperatives for Irish farmers in the negotiations. Likewise, you will have the opportunity to hear later this afternoon from Minister Michael Creed on his efforts to secure the interests of the Irish farmer.

I meet Minister Creed regularly and he is to be commended on the diplomatic offensive on which he has embarked to ensure that the interests of Irish farmers are understood across the EU.

Brussels and national capitals now understand very well that Brexit is already having a negative impact on the value of Irish agri-food exports to the UK, principally as a result of the depreciation of sterling.  Due to the fall in sterling, in a sense Brexit has already happened for Irish farmers looking to sell product in Britain.

As Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development, I have seen an increasing consciousness from food-exporting Member States of the very considerable challenge that Brexit presents. While Ireland is uniquely exposed in terms of the proportion of product exported to the UK, there are a number of other Member States which also have significant exposure in terms of the volume and value of their trade to the UK.

It may be that some have woken up later than you have to the enormous challenge that Brexit presents, but better late than never! Brexit presents different challenges to different sectors of the economy, but the European Union is clear about one thing – in the forthcoming negotiations, the Union will act as one and will strive to reach an agreement that is in the interests of both sides.

For the EU, preserving the integrity of the Single Market is an absolute priority. That excludes participation in any agreement with the UK on a sector-by-sector approach.

There will be no agriculture deal and the continued pursuit of such an outcome is folly. That is exactly why a comprehensive free-trade agreement, with a tariff-free transition period, probably represents the best option to achieve your objective of continued access to the UK market.

I agree also with your call for a strong CAP budget post-2020. The budget will be decided as part of the negotiations for the next MFF by the European Council and the European Parliament. Because of the obvious uncertainty caused by Brexit and the terms of the financial settlement which have yet to be agreed, it is difficult to say what the financial implications of Brexit will be for the next period.

It would, however, be naïve to believe that the CAP budget will be immune from the inevitable budgetary pressures that arise, not alone because of Brexit, but also because of the other political pressures on the budget arising from such issues as migration, security and defence.

I have and will continue to make the argument for a strong and well-funded Common Agricultural Policy, not for the sake of it, but because I believe that it is justified.  It is justified for many reasons, including the fact that, apart from the peace dividend that the European Union has produced, the CAP has probably been the most successful policy in the Union's 60 year existence, bringing the continent of Europe from post-war starvation to a point where we produce the highest-quality, safest food in the world and where Europe is the address of choice for consumers around the world.

Today, however, is about Brexit and not necessarily about the future of the CAP, about which I could say much more and for which perhaps I can return on another occasion.

Before I conclude my remarks, let me assure you that there is considerable understanding of and indeed support for Ireland's predicament arising from Brexit. The Irish government and the diplomatic service have done an excellent job in explaining the political consequences of Brexit, particularly in the context of the Good Friday Agreement and the negative impact of restoring a so-called hard border. Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Friday met the leaders of Denmark and the Netherlands to find a common strong position on the trade dimension of Brexit.

I know from talking to my colleague Commissioners, including, as I mentioned, President Juncker, that the issues for Ireland are also well understood in the College and I know too that the Irish MEPs have left no stone unturned in ensuring that there is a greater understanding in the European Parliament of the consequences for Ireland.

As a result of such representations, it is laudable and remarkable that Ireland is listed as one of the three main EU negotiating priorities by Mr Barnier, the others being the status of EU citizens and the divorce bill.

This is a good first step and it is an excellent example of how good political connectivity with large political groups is essential in Brussels.

The Irish agri-food sector is facing probably its greatest challenge since Independence. Your sector is one of enormous importance to this country, both economically and socially. You have a sector that has proven its resilience on many previous occasions and that resilience is about to be tested again.

Just as the European Union is determined to act as one and protect its collective interests, the Irish agri-food sector should do the same. Just as with the European Union of 27, your strength is in your unity. This is a time for leadership, coherence, patience, realism and determination.

There may be pitfalls along the road, but you should see them as no more than that. It is a period of uncertainty for all of us, but not alone must you have some clear objectives, you also need clarity about how those objectives are to be achieved.  This has to manifest itself in a clear plan, one to which your entire industry should be able to subscribe and one which is consistent with that of the government.

Now that the worst of the Brexit triumphalism appears to have abated – at least for now - everyone with a stake in the future of the EU-UK relationship should exercise whatever influence they can to maintain this common sense trajectory.

Most of the people who voted in June voted for the attractive slogan "take back control". No one really knew what it meant. Bizarrely these details are only now being seriously discussed.

A huge education process is finally and only slowly underway. Everyone who cares about the UK, must, in their own small way contribute. The ideologues have had the airwaves to themselves for too long, shouting down anyone with the temerity to challenge the notion of a "hard Brexit". Let's be clear, no deal would be a disaster, not just for the UK, but everyone. Let's keep up the pressure for a balanced, informed process.

The European Union and the United Kingdom have confirmed a shared desire to be close partners in the future. I welcome the Irish government's unambiguous commitment to its continued partnership with the other 26 Member States. As part of the EU27, Ireland commits itself to the European Union's overall objective to preserve the Union's interests, those of the 27 Member States, their citizens and their businesses.

While Brexit presents an enormous challenge, it is not an insurmountable one. The future will be different, but together it is a future we should face with confidence and determination.

Thank you.



Commissioner Phil Hogan with Han Changfu, Minister of Agriculture of the People's Republic of China

Young Irish farmers will soon have the chance to visit China on study trips, while young Chinese farmers and agriculture professionals can visit Ireland and other EU countries.

The project will be jointly funded by the EU and the Chinese authorities.


The project was jointly announced today by Commissioner Phil Hogan and Han Changfu, Minister of Agriculture of the People's Republic of China. This EU-China project is aimed at capacity building for young professional farmers and agricultural professionals.

Speaking at the launch event, Phil Hogan said: "In both Europe and China – and indeed anywhere else in the world – we need to encourage the next generation of young farmers and rural entrepreneurs to create a food and farming sector fit for the 21st century. I welcome this opportunity to strengthen the already positive and constructive relations between the EU and China in this area which I saw during my visit there last year."


The project will focus especially on sustainable farming techniques and environmental practices. Through a series of study tours the participants will have the chance to learn from each other's experience in this area; this will then be translated into recommendations on sustainable farming to be shared with the wider farming and rural community, and with policy makers. The project recommendations will also be shared at a final conference to be organised in China end of 2018.

The exchange programme is part of the broader cooperation between the EU and China on agriculture and rural development which began in 2012. It's hoped that the project will strengthen bilateral cooperation in the area of agriculture and rural development between the EU and China, letting young farmers and agricultural professionals from both sides see how they each rise to the challenges of their respective farming sectors.

The project will be funded jointly by China and the EU. The Centre for International Cooperation Services of the Ministry of Agriculture will manage the project for China, while on the EU side the project will be implemented through the Policy Support Facility of the EU's Partnership Instrument, which is designed to promote the Union's strategic interests worldwide by reinforcing its external strategies, policies and actions.


Dairy cow

The Commission today presented a study on the impact of future trade agreements on the agricultural sector. At a glance, this shows positive results overall, particularly for dairy and pigmeat. Certain vulnerabilities on the other hand show up for beef and rice.

Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, said Brussels today: " Some Member States and stakeholders have expressed concern on the accumulated effect of the bilateral trade agreements which the EU has been and continues to pursue. This study responds to those concerns and, based on the assumptions made, shows that the effect of international trade agreements on agriculture and the European agri-food sector is broadly positive."


Commission presents study on impact of future trade agreements on the agricultural sector


Economic study gives valuable information on potential effects of future trade agreements and validates current EU approach of systematically protecting sensitive sectors.

The European Commission today presented to EU agriculture ministers the conclusions of a study on the cumulative effects of 12 future trade agreements on the agri-food sector, including specific results for producer prices and production volumes for a range of products accounting for 30% of the value of the EU exports in the sector.

The study illustrates the potential for European agricultural products on the world market, while at the same time also showing the sensitivity of specific agricultural sectors. Detailed knowledge on the potential impacts will allow the Commission to make informed choices during the negotiation process.

Due to the limitations of the available methodologies, the range of agricultural products for which the study provides more detailed analysis is not exhaustive. Possible gains for important products having significant export potential - like fruit and vegetables, wine, olive oil and processed foods in general (accounting for 70% of EU agri-food export value) - could not be quantified in detail nor the gains of improved protection for Geographical Indications.

The assessment focuses solely on the effects produced by reciprocal liberalisation of import tariffs between the EU and the relevant trade partners, not taking into account other provisions with an economic impact (e.g. the reduction of non-tariff measures, in particular sanitary and phytosanitary measures). The impact of measures used by the EU to protect vulnerable sectors in trade deals, such as the systematic use of limited tariff rate quotas (TRQ) is also out of the scope of this assessment.

The study as such is not a prediction or forecast but a highly theoretical exercise reflecting potential outcomes of the successful conclusion of the agreements covered.

Commenting on the study, Vice President Jyrki Katainen said: "the overall picture is positive for high-value European agricultural exports.  This study shows that there are sensitivities, however, it focuses on only one part of agricultural sector and does not measure a number of agri-food products which have significant export growth potential.  This balance is fully reflected in the EU's trade negotiating strategy, in which we seek to protect our vulnerable sectors through measures such as tariff rate quotas, while maximising our positive interests whenever possible.

Growth in the area of processed food, in particular, also has positive knock-on effects for the primary production sector. EU exports of agricultural commodities support 1.4 million jobs and another 650,000 jobs in the processed foods sector also depend on our ability to export. The EU economy as a whole benefits greatly from trade as shown by the recent free trade agreement with South-Korea."

Commissioner Hogan said that "Some Member States and stakeholders have expressed concern on the accumulated effect of the bilateral trade agreements which the EU has been and continues to pursue. This study responds to those concerns and, based on the assumptions made, shows that the effect of international trade agreements on agriculture and the European agri-food sector is broadly positive."

Commissioner Hogan also stressed that "it is important to note that the conclusions of the cumulative impact study are not a forecast of the successful conclusion of these 12 trade agreements, given that they are based on a very specific set of assumptions which may or may not, in whole or in part, reflect the EU's negotiating position for those agreements. For example, the study does not factor in the possible reduction of non-tariff measures, for which there are currently no reliable estimates. The use of TRQs for sensitive products, as one would normally associate with trade negotiations, is important to strike a balance for EU agriculture as well as the gains in exports through the protection of the EU's Geographical Indications"

Significant gains are anticipated for the EU dairy and pig meat sectors, two sectors which have struggled in recent years and which are now showing signs of recovery. On the other hand, the study shows vulnerabilities for beef and rice, both in terms of trade effects and a decline in producer prices. The extent of the impact for these different products varies depending on whether one looks at the more "ambitious" (full liberalisation of 98.5% of all products, and a partial tariff cut of 50% for the remaining products) or more "conservative" (full liberalisation of 97%, and 25% tariff cut for the others) scenarios of the study.

The results of the study also confirm that the EU's current approach of limiting the liberalisation of imports of sensitive agricultural products in all trade negotiations is the right one. In the case of the agreement recently reached with Canada (known as CETA), the EU will eliminate 92.2% of its agricultural tariffs at entry into force of the deal (reaching 93.8% after seven years). The TRQ agreed for beef in CETA amounts to 45,838 tonnes, to be phased in over 5 years and corresponding to about 0.6% of total EU consumption. Another example is rice: in the trade deal with Vietnam, the EU will only partially liberalise imports of rice, with the rice TRQs representing about 8 per cent of total EU imports, two thirds of which will be earmarked for rice not produced within the EU or to be further processed by the EU rice industry.

The outcome of the study is being presented to EU Ministers today and it is expected that a further discussion will take place in the Agriculture Council under the Maltese Presidency in January.

The study on the cumulative effects on agriculture does not replace the broader and more detailed impact assessments and sustainable impact assessments carried out for each trade negotiation.

For more information

Questions and Answers


Selection of EU cheeses

Irish and other EU agricultural producers will receive an increased budget of €133 million in 2017 to promote their products and find new markets.

This is up from the €111 million that was available for 2016. The promotion budget will mostly target countries outside the EU, including China, Middle East, North America, South-East Asia and Japan. It's part of the drive to find new markets launched earlier this year by EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner, Phil Hogan, who has been on a diplomatic offensive to find new buyers for EU products abroad.


Returning from his business mission to Vietnam and Indonesia, Commissioner for Agriculture Hogan said: "I welcome these new programmes, especially in the context of the recent market difficulties. I was just now travelling in Asia as part of our efforts to boost agri-food exports, and I am struck by the interest being shown by importers and consumers in this part of the world. The further expansion of our promotion programmes next year is also particularly important as this will also help to stimulate growth and jobs in the agri-food sector. EU wide, we see that an increase in exports of €1 billion supports roughly 14 000 jobs. I am particularly pleased that this includes a new initiative to boost products from sustainable agriculture."


A call for proposals to benefit from the 2017 promotion budget will be launched in January 2017 at the latest. Proposing organisations can apply and their campaigns, usually rolling over three years, will be co-financed by the European Commission at rates of 70-85%.

The 2017 budget represents a clear increase compared with the €111 million from this year, outlining the support provided to EU agri-food producers. The 2016 promotion campaign is successfully following its course as the final beneficiaries were selected and will be in a position to get their campaigns started early next year. The selected campaigns, 60 of them being single programmes and 6 multi programmes* show a more diverse and broader outreach than ever. Indeed, they cover 32 third countries, compared with 23 last year, and within the two major destinations, the USA and China, they go well beyond the most targeted areas of New York and Beijing. The products which will be the most advertised in the campaigns are fruits and vegetables (30% of the programmes), followed by meat (17%) and dairy products (15%). This reflects the importance of promotion policy to support sectors experiencing difficult market situations, like dairy and pigmeat.

An infographic of the EU promotion policy is available online

For more information on agriculture promotion policy, see here.

The full European Commission press release is available here.


Commissioner Hogan
Commissioner Hogan

From 1 to 9 November, Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, is visiting Hong Kong, Vietnam and Indonesia accompanied by a business delegation of European agri-food executives from 16 different Member States including Ireland (Arrabawn Cooperative and Ornua Cooperative).


In 2016, over €100 million from the EU budget is available to promote EU agri-food products in third countries and promote consumption outside and inside the EU.

"I'm continuing my 'diplomatic offensive' of 2016, by visiting Vietnam.  With a population of 90 million, Vietnam is a fast-growing and dynamic economy, with huge potential to continue growing in the coming years. During our mission, I will be accompanied by 42 representatives of EU agri-food businesses active in sectors with large potential in Vietnam and Indonesia. The total turnover of the European companies that are represented in this mission is in excess of 170 billion euros.  Importantly, there are producer groups and cooperatives heavily represented, so that the European farmer can have a direct route to global markets. They will be meeting buyers and potential business partners in order to highlight the quality of our products and introduce to importers and authorities the stories and values behind our agricultural production", said the Commissioner ahead of his journey.

"This is a follow on from previous visits to Mexico, Colombia, China and Japan in 2016, where we have already witnessed major growth in exports of European food and drink."

The Commissioner's programme foresees a series of political meetings with, among others, Mr Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Vietnam, and the Vietnamese Ministers of Agriculture and Health; the Head of the Indonesian National Agency for Drugs and Food Control, and the Secretary for Food and Health of Hong-Kong.

The visit's core objective being to promote EU agri-food products, Commissioner Hogan will also meet business stakeholders and chambers of commerce and will open events on Geographical Indications in Jakarta and on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement in Hanoi. 

In addition to the Commissioner's programme, the representatives in the business delegation will hold several meetings on site and will participate in different events. 

More information as well as the full visit programme is available online.


Commissioner Hogan with members of the Committee

EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan addressed the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food & the Marine in Dublin today. In his speech, the Commissioner outlined the importance to the Commission of direct interaction with national parliaments. He said: "We need a debate about how the EU can better communicate with the citizens, in a way that emphasises the positive contribution that the EU can make to their lives. The Common Agricultural Policy is one of those policies that makes an immense contribution to the lives of millions of farmers and other beneficiaries in every country in Europe. Without it, what kind of a food policy or agricultural production system would we have in Europe. What kind of a rural environment would we have or what kind of vitality would our rural communities enjoy."

The full text of the speech is reproduced below.



Remarks of EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development, Phil Hogan, to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Thursday 20 October



Chairman, Minister Creed and members of the Committee, it is pleasure to be back again in Leinster House and to have the opportunity to engage directly with you.

I'm pleased say that, since my appointment as Commissioner, I have now visited in excess of 20 national parliaments and it's been my experience and that of most of my colleagues that such meetings are of mutual benefit. Indeed, President Juncker frequently reminds us of how important it is that the Commission interacts directly with members of national parliaments.

This is especially so at a time when trust in the institutions of the EU is falling and criticism, some of it unfair, being heaped upon the EU. We need a debate about how the EU can better communicate with the citizens, in a way that emphasises the positive contribution that the EU can make to their lives.

The Common Agricultural Policy is one of those policies that makes an immense contribution to the lives of millions of farmers and other beneficiaries in every country in Europe. Without it, what kind of a food policy or agricultural production system would we have in Europe. What kind of a rural environment would we have or what kind of vitality would our rural communities enjoy.


The Place of Agriculture

Agriculture and the broader agri-food sector continue to be an economic mainstay for this country, particularly in rural areas where employment prospects are not as plentyful.

I recently made my first official visit to Greece, where I described in detail to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras how agriculture and rural development can make a telling contribution to economic recovery if managed and supported correctly. As an Irishman, I was pleased to be able to use this country as an example of how this can be achieved.

In his recent State of the Union Address, President Junker's spoke of "a Europe that preserves our way of life."  He identified a number of characteristics that he said characterise that way of life, one of which is our agricultural sector. Specifically, he committed the Commission to "always stand by our farmers, particularly when they go through difficult moments as is the case today." 

The Commission's solidarity with farmers in every country in the EU is illustrated by the Commission having mobilised over €1.5 billion to support farmers hit with an unjustified trade ban imposed by Russia and those, including thousands in this country, hit by falling milk prices resulting from a combination of factors.  This is, of course, in addition to the existing CAP budget of 56 billion that the European Union spends every year to help millions of farmers in every country of the EU.

I know that, for some, the level of support provided by the Commission will never be enough but, when seen against the enormous pressure on the EU budget, particularly in terms of dealing with the migration crisis, I think that any reasonable observer would have to acknowledge that the Commission has honoured the President's pledge to "stand by our farmers".


Simplification of the CAP

The Common Agricultural Policy has been the mainstay of agricultural production in Europe for more than half a century and has ensured that the continent of Europe has never had to experience the stress of food insecurity that it went through in the earlier part of the 20th century.

The CAP has evolved into a much more market-orientated policy than characterised its earlier years and this evolution has been embraced by Irish farmers, who are outward looking and export-focused.

But the CAP is not perfect. A new CAP came into effect in 2015 and, even before it began to be implemented, I was facing calls to simplify the policy.

To date, I have implemented over 20 simplifications to the CAP which have been widely welcomed by farmers and national administrations, to whom they apply directly. 

More simplifications are on the way: changes to market rules will substantially reduce 250 Commission Regulations to around 40. These simplifications make life easier for farmers and other operators, allowing them to focus more closely on the potential of their holdings and businesses to deliver jobs and growth.

A further series of important simplification actions are part of the recent proposal accompanying the review of the MFF – the so-called Omnibus Regulation.

These measures are aimed at further simplifying the policy, increasing its efficiency and ability to deliver results without compromising its policy orientation.

In particular, changes are proposed to Rural Development Regulation to provide for a sector specific Income Stabilisation Tool. This will give MS the possibility to design a tool tailored for a specific sector, which it is intended will make it more attractive for both farmers and administrations.  The proposal also responds to the need to provide better means to support farmers in times of market crisis and reflects recent difficult experiences in a number of sectors.

A further substantial change has been proposed to the RD Regulation to introduce simpler rules for accessing loans and other Financial Instruments. These changes are intended to give the necessary boost to make better use of financial instruments in the agricultural sector and providing greater access to capital for farmers, particular young farmers for whom access to credit is an ongoing problem.

In the Direct Payments Regulation, the Commission is proposing to allow MS greater discretion in the application of the definition of an "active farmer". In effect, MS will be able to decide whether or not they wish to continue applying the existing definition of "active farmer". If applied, the system will become considerably less burdensome and will substantially ease the paperwork for both farmers and national/regional administrations.

The proposals will require the full co-decision with the Council and the European Parliament. I have urged the co-legislators, in whose hands the proposal now is, to ensure that these meaningful changes can be in force by the start of 2018.


I am also in the course of proposing a package of measures in relation to the simplification of greening and I welcome the support shown by Member States for the majority of the measures.

However, I am conscious that opposition has been expressed in respect of three of the proposals contained in the package, including a proposed ban on the use of pesticides on EFA.

While I have offered a number of compromises, which I believe address many of the concerns expressed, it is important to restate that that the CAP is an economic, environmental and social policy.

The CAP has a strong environmental dimension and that is as it should be. The simple facts are that the environmental dimension is here to stay and on my watch we will not lower our level of environmental ambition.

That said, my commitment to simplification remains and I look forward to having further proposals aimed at making the lives of our farmers easier.


Agricultural Markets

Given the market orientation of the Irish agri-food sector and the importance of agri-food exports to the Irish economy, I would like to provide you with a state of play in relation to agriculture markets, at home in Europe and abroad.

When I spoke before this committee in May of last year, the focus was still very much on the sectors in crisis, namely the dairy, pigmeat and fruit and vegetable sectors.

Today, I am pleased to say that we are seeing something of a recovery in those hardest-hit markets, though we all know how fragile recovery can be in agricultural markets.

The milk market is the one that has been the primary focus over the last year and a half or so.  The most recent information available suggests that there is "a general consensus on the improvement of market conditions, once the adjustment in supply has started to materialise." That adjustment has begun to materialise and its effect in Ireland is beginning to show in a welcome price recovery, albeit from a low level.

The milk production reduction scheme, which came into effect just over a week ago, will help this trend. The scheme has proven to be very attractive and the high level of participation is a clear indication of the appetite that there is for such a scheme. It is particularly noteworthy and important for the success of the scheme that all the main milk-producing countries are significant participants, including Ireland. Indeed, in percentage terms, Ireland is the MS with the highest participation rate among milk producers at 24 per cent.

Let me turn next to the beef sector, which is of significant strategic importance for Ireland. The sector is facing some difficulties, notably arising from developments in the dairy sector, but it also has structural problems of its own that need to be addressed.

However, exports remain dynamic, with an increase of 16.8 per cent in the period January-July 2016. New emerging markets such as the Philippines and Israel are contributing to keep our trade balance very positive.

In addition, reasonable prices for raw materials and positive forecasts are keeping production costs within boundaries.

I am convinced that one sure way to ensuring improvement in price conditions is to help livestock farmers find new markets. I will travel to Turkey very shortly to help increase access to that market for the live exports trade.

I have in fact undertaken, as you are aware, a diplomatic offensive to help unlock new markets and grow exports for our farmers – I have visited Mexico, Colombia, China and Japan and will also visit Vietnam and Indonesia next month.

As regards third country markets, I will also be proposing that we look at promotion. In addition to dairy and pigmeat, I will propose that beef is the specific object of an external promotion programme for 2017 with a value of €4 million.

We also need to raise awareness of the high quality and sustainability of European agriculture, including the unique, extensive livestock sector in Europe. 

For that reason, I intend to also include a targeted promotion programme with a budget of €15 million, aimed at increasing the awareness amongst the general public in the EU of the value of sustainable agriculture and the role of agriculture in terms of climate action, from which livestock will also stand to benefit.



Allow me to offer a few brief words on Brexit in the context of the Irish agri-food sector, on which I will elaborate in my appearance before the European Affairs committee.

I am fully aware of the huge strategic significance of the British market for Irish agri-food exports. And I made this point in great detail to the European Commission's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, whom I met recently.

Mr Barnier is both a former European Commissioner and French Agriculture Minister, so he comes to the job with a lot of experience and understanding, not least of the agriculture sector and its importance, and I am satisfied that he will take these points fully into account in his work.

As regards Brexit, I would remind you that, as things stand, I have no new insight as to what the consequences of Brexit are for Ireland, the UK, cross-border relations or the UK's future relationship with the EU.

The truth is that nobody knows what the future holds, whether in terms of the conditions under which the UK will leave the EU or the post-Brexit environment in which the UK and the EU or Ireland and the UK will have to coexist, because there will have to be a relationship of some kind.



Chairman, members, let me conclude on a more positive note, by recalling again the words of President Juncker when he described our agricultural sector as "a strong part of our European way of life that I want to preserve".

In his Letter of Intent for next year's Work Programme, he also committed the Commission to the "modernisation and simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy to maximise its contribution to the Commission's political priorities and to the Sustainable Development Goals".

We should not ignore these political signals from the President of the Commission. Aligning the CAP more closely to the Juncker priorities in the context of the post-2020 discussions will provide policy options to ensure that we maintain a viable farming community and strong, sustainable rural communities now and in the generations to come.

Indeed, this process is already underway. Last month, the Commission hosted a 2-day conference in Cork, where over 350 experts and rural stakeholders elaborated a Declaration on the Future of EU Rural Development.

This document, entitled "A Better Life for Rural Areas" contains 10 points which advocate for investing in the potential of rural areas, not only in terms of jobs and growth but also for better integration into other policies.

I look forward to doing my part to build a stronger CAP for the farmers of Ireland and Europe. I am happy to hear any thoughts you may have.


Thank you for your attention.


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