Representation in Ireland

CAP

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Image of EU and UK flags
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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.

08/04/2019


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

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Farmland
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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.

02/08/2018

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

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Commissioner Hogan presenting the CAP proposals
Commissioner Hogan presenting the CAP proposals

For the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, the Commission is proposing to modernise and simplify the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

With a budget of €365 billion, these proposals make sure the CAP remains a future-proof policy, continues to support farmers and rural communities, leads the sustainable development of EU agriculture and reflects the EU's ambition on environmental care and climate action. Today's proposals give Member States greater flexibility and responsibility for choosing how and where to invest their CAP funding in order to meet ambitious goals set at EU level towards a smart, resilient, sustainable and competitive agricultural sector, while at the same time ensuring a fair and better targeted support of farmers' income.

01/06/2018

Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: "Today's proposal delivers on the Commission's commitment to modernise and simplify the Common Agricultural Policy; delivering genuine subsidiarity for Member States; ensuring a more resilient agricultural sector in Europe; and increasing the environmental and climate ambition of the policy."

Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President in charge of Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness said: "The Common Agricultural Policy is one of our core policies and affects the lives of all Europeans. These solid proposals will contribute to the competitiveness of the agricultural sector, whilst at the same time they reinforce itssustainability. With the new delivery model we provide more subsidiarity to the Member States in order to improve the effectiveness of the policy and to better monitor its results."

The main features of the Commission's proposals for a modernised, simplified CAP are:

1. A new way of working: Member States will have more flexibility in how to use their funding allocations, allowing them to design tailor-made programmes that respond most effectively to farmers' and wider rural communities' concerns. Member States will also have the option to transfer up to 15% of their CAP allocations between direct payments and rural development and vice-versa to ensure that their priorities and measures can be funded. A level playing-field amongst Member States will be ensured through:

  • Strategic Plans covering the whole period, setting out how each Member State intends to meet 9 EU-wide economic, environmental and social objectives, using both direct payments and rural development. The Commission will approve each plan to ensure consistency and the protection of the single market;
  • The Commission will closely follow each country's performance and progress towards the agreed targets.

2. A fairer deal through better targeting of support: Direct payments will remain an essential part of the policy, ensuring stability and predictability for farmers.Priority will be given to supporting the small and medium-sized farms that constitute the majority of the EU's farming sector, and to helping young farmers. The Commission remains committed to achieving a fairer distribution of direct payments between Member States through external convergence.

In addition:

  • Direct payments to farmers will be reduced as of €60,000 and capped for payments above €100,000 per farm. Labour costs will be taken fully into account. This is designed to ensure a fairer distribution of payments;
  • Small & medium-sized farms will receive a higher level of support per hectare;
  • Countries will have to set aside at least 2% of their direct payment allocation for helping young farmers get set up. This will be complemented by financial support for rural development and different measures facilitating access to land and land transfers.

3. Higher ambitions on environmental and climate action: Climate change, natural resources, biodiversity, habitats and landscapes are all addressed in the EU-wide objectives proposed today. Farmers' income support is already linked to the application of environment and climate-friendly practices and the new CAP will require farmers to achieve a higher level of ambition through both mandatory and incentive-based measures:

  • Direct payments will be conditional on enhanced environmental and climate requirements;
  • Each Member State will have to offer eco-schemes to support farmers in going beyond the mandatory requirements, funded with a share of their national direct payments' allocations;
  • At least 30% of each rural development national allocation will be dedicated to environmental and climate measures;
  • 40% of the CAP's overall budget is expected to contribute to climate action;
  • In addition to the possibility to transfer 15% between pillars, Member States will also have the possibility to transfer an additional 15% from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 for spending on climate and environment measures (without national co-financing).

4. Greater use of knowledge and innovation: The modernised CAP will take advantage of all the latest technologies and innovations, thereby helping both farmers in the field and public administrations, notably through:

  • A budget of €10 billion from the EU's Horizon Europe research programme set aside for research and innovation projects in food, agriculture, rural development and bioeconomy;
  • Encouraging Member States to use big data and new technologies for controls and monitoring (for example, verifying farm sizes for direct payment claims using satellite data), thus significantly reducing the need for on-the-spot controls;
  • Stepping up the digitisation of rural life, for example through extending broadband access in rural regions, thereby improving the quality of life in such regions and further contributing to the competitiveness of European agricultural production.

Next steps

A swift agreement on the overall long-term EU budget and its sectoral proposals is essential to ensure that EU funds start delivering results on the ground as soon as possible and that farmers are provided with the necessary certainty and predictability for their business and investment decisions.

Delays similar to the ones experienced at the beginning of the current 2014-2020 budgetary period could potentially mean that farmers and national administrations would not benefit from the reduced bureaucracy, greater flexibility and more effective results that the new CAP will bring. Any delays in approval of the future budget would also delay the start of thousands of potential new projects across the EU designed to support farmers and rural communities, tackling issues from strengthening environmental protection to attracting new farmers.

An agreement on the next long-term budget in 2019 would provide for a seamless transition between the current long-term budget (2014-2020) and the new one and would ensure predictability and continuity of funding to the benefit of all.

For more information

Factsheets and the legislative proposals are available here

MEMO: The Common Agricultural Policy beyond 2020

More information on the EU budget for the future can be found here

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EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan
EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan

EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development Phil Hogan today (April 20th) stated that his top priority in the ongoing EU budget negotiation is "protecting the small and medium sized farmer who remains the backbone of Europe's food production and rural communities".

Ahead of a Citizens' Dialogue with 400 farmers in Kilkenny City, co-organised by the IFA and the European Commission Office in Ireland, Hogan said: "The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a European success story and I believe it represents excellent value for money for our citizens, guaranteeing them the best food quality and safety in the world and keeping our rural areas sustainable and attractive".

But he cautioned that "the challenge in defending the CAP is unprecedented this time around.

20/04/2018

Brexit blowing a €12 billion hole in EU budget

"Brexit is blowing a €12 billion hole in the overall European budget, and other priorities such as security, migration and defence have grown in prominence in recent years.

"Therefore in many quarters the CAP is viewed as the obvious target for cuts.

"Member States have the possibility to make up the Brexit shortfall by contributing a higher percentage of Gross National Income. I have been making this point strongly to heads of state and agriculture ministers across the EU, and I have also been offering a robust defence of the CAP and the value for money it delivers.

"I met the prime ministers of Ireland, Hungary, Portugal, France, Slovenia and the Baltic states in recent months, and they are receptive to my arguments.

"But we need to be realistic: in the absence of more money from Member States, there will be a cut to the CAP budget. My job as I see it is to build the strongest possible coalition to resist the worst of these cuts, and achieve the best outcome in a difficult scenario.

Equity and fairness for farmers

"The bottom line is that farmer income must continue to be supported – particularly our small and medium sized farmers. This is the role and duty of the CAP, as outlined in the EU founding treaties, and if we expect farmers to make a bigger contribution in relation to the climate challenge and other societal goals, they must be rewarded for that work.

"For me this is about equity and fairness for our farmers, who provide our citizens with so many public goods."

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Promotional image for the Eurobarometer on the Common Agricultural Policy
Promotional image for the Eurobarometer on the Common Agricultural Policy

A new Eurobarometer survey on Europeans and the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) reveals that 80% of Irish people, highest share in the EU, agree that the CAP is fulfilling its role in providing safe, healthy food of high quality. On average this feeling was shared by 64% of EU respondents with French respondents at 38% least likely to agree.

Irish respondents were also the joint second most likely to agree the CAP is fulfilling its role in ensuring a sustainable way to produce food (72%) and in ensuring reasonable food prices for consumers (71%).

22/02/2018

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Table from the report
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And Irish respondents were the third most likely to think that the CAP is fulfilling its role in protecting the environment and tackling climate change (69%) and ensuring a fair standard of living for farmers (70%). The EU averages were respectively 47% and 56%.

The survey also shows that 66% of Irish people are aware of the Common Agricultural Policy, which is slightly below the EU average of 67%. Awareness of the CAP was highest in Sweden at 91% and lowest in Italy at 44%.

When asked what they thought about the level of financial support given to farmers, 53% of Irish respondents thought it was about right while 20% thought it was too low and 9% thought it was too high. On average across the EU, 45% of respondents thought it was about right, while 26% thought it was too low and 11% thought it was too high.

When asked their opinion on future EU financial support to farmers, 43% of Irish respondents would like to see an increase over the next ten years while 34% would like to see no change and 8% would like to see a reduction. Across the EU, 44% of respondents would like to see an increase, 29% would like to see no change and 12% would like to see a decrease.

When it comes to the purchase of food products, local tradition and "know-how" is important for 83% of Irish respondents, above the EU average of 77%.

Having a specific label ensuring the quality of the product was important for almost 9 in 10 (87%) Irish people, 4th highest in the EU where the average was 76%. Coming from a geographical area known to them was important for 81% of Irish respondents.

Over 1,000 Irish people were interviewed for the survey in December 2017,

The Eurobarometer survey, including an Ireland factsheet, can be downloaded here.

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Commissioner Kilkenny in Kilkenny

Commissioner Phil Hogan was on hand in Kilkenny today to listen to the concerns of the Irish public. Hot topics were EU support to farmers, Brexit and the future of the EU. He said "When speaking about Europe and the EU, we must always remember that Europe is us.  We are Europe.  Populists seek to divide people into us and them – "they" are bad, "we" are good.  Of course "they" are usually from far away, or look different to us.  We have seen this poisonous populism infect Europe in recent times.  It is the primary cause of Brexit.  Successive British governments sought to curry favour with the populist British tabloid media.  Rather than face down their lies, they sought to ride the wave of populist Euroscepticism.  This ended up in the Brexit mess we are now left with."

01/06/2017

See below for Commissioner Hogan's opening remarks.

I'm glad to be here on home turf in Kilkenny.  Of course I am based in Brussels these times, but Kilkenny is my home.  Kilkenny is as much at the heart of Europe as Brussels – I note this on my journeys across the 27 member states – Kilkenny is a well-known place, for our history, our culture…and our beer!  The point being that for all of us, Europe is not just "over there" in Brussels or Berlin, it is here in Kilkenny and Tullaroan.

When speaking about Europe and the EU, we must always remember that Europe is us.  We are Europe.  Populists seek to divide people into us and them – "they" are bad, "we" are good.  Of course "they" are usually from far away, or look different to us.  We have seen this poisonous populism infect Europe in recent times.  It is the primary cause of Brexit.  Successive British governments sought to curry favour with the populist British tabloid media.  Rather than face down their lies, they sought to ride the wave of populist Euroscepticism.  This ended up in the Brexit mess we are now left with. 

On the other hand, we see those who faced down the lies and distortions of the populists.  In France, Austria and the Netherlands, the populist, anti-everything brigades were faced down and called out.  Real debate and real dialogue took place.  This is the sign of a healthy democracy.

Our free societies are founded on open dialogue and on facts.  We are here today to participate in a Citizens Dialogue.  These dialogues are taking place right across the EU, with hundreds of thousands of citizens meeting with their political representatives from all levels, in order to discuss and debate the future of Europe.  It is more important than ever that we hear the views of citizens as the EU turns 60.

 (Future of Europe)

The Commission has published a White Paper on the Future of Europe.  This sets out various options and scenarios for how a future EU 27 could look like.

The EU, over its 60 year existence, has delivered unprecedented peace, prosperity and solidarity across a continent blighted by war and famine.

As we look towards the future, we need to plot out a course for the EU to continue to meet the major ongoing challenges, but also face new ones, such as jobs and growth, climate change, migration and security. 

Here in Ireland, we see with our own eyes the benefits of EU membership – the motorways and other infrastructure, the third level institutions built with EU money.  The freedom of movement that see millions of tourists that come to places like Kilkenny, on cheap flights brought about by EU rules.

Not least, the dynamic agriculture sector here, underpinned by the €1.2bn in annual CAP direct payments from the EU budget to rural Ireland.

It is notable that over 50 cent in every euro of farm income in Ireland comes from EU payments.  Where would rural Ireland be without this continued support from Europe?

The rural enterprises funded by LEADER.  The playgrounds, the community centres, the public facilities funded by EU structural funds.

All this EU investment is obvious and apparent to us here in Ireland.  EU membership has seen us become a dynamic, well-educated, outward looking economy and society.  We do business now with 180 countries.  Before membership, we almost entirely dependent on our large neighbour to the east.

 (Brexit)

Of course we cannot talk about Ireland and the future of Europe without mentioning Brexit.

The decision by the British people to leave the EU, after a campaign based on series of lies and half-truths, encapsulated in the now infamous NHS red bus, is a hugely regrettable one.  Nevertheless we must respect the democratic will of the British people.

In the circumstances, I am glad to see that the issue of the Irish border is one of the three main priorities of the EU negotiation position.  This is a huge diplomatic success for Ireland.  Our main issue with Brexit, namely the potential for a hard border, is now also a primary issue for the EU as a whole.

This is solidarity in action.  The more united the EU27 is, the higher the likelihood that we will get a good deal for Ireland, avoiding a hard border and duties on our agri-food exports to the UK.

Our top priority must be to keep the current trading arrangements with the UK to the greatest extent possible.  This also require a realism from the British side which I hope will dawn post-election.

Let me be crystal clear – no one in Brussels wants a hard border.  Certainly no one in Ireland wants a hard border.  So far, London is the only place driving a hard border.  Allow me to be even clearer – if London insists on leaving the customs union, this will be the road to a hard border. 

So far, this "utopia" thankfully only exists in the pages of the British Tory manifesto.  We must do everything our power to walk our British friends back from the cliff face of a hard Brexit and a hard border.  Remaining in the customs union would avert this "Made in Britain" disaster from occurring.

 (Future of the Common Agricultural Policy)

I will speak more about to my portfolio of Agriculture and Rural Development. 

We often take for granted how well the CAP has served Ireland Europe for over 50 years – in fact I believe it is one of the true success stories of European cooperation.

The CAP guarantees safe, affordable, high-quality food for our people - produced to the highest standards. I have said on a number of occasions that we should consider renaming it the Common Food Policy. President Juncker in December reminded us of the policy's immense geostrategic importance: a continent which cannot feed itself depends on the goodwill of others.

We must never take this achievement for granted. And we must remember that this can only remain the case if farmers can make a living from their work. If we want to maintain food security and the highest food standards in the world, we must support our farmers through the CAP.

And that is not all: for it is not nearly as well understood as it should be that our farmers and rural areas are working on our behalf on multiple fronts. It is essential that our farming and rural communities remain strong, vibrant and sustainable, because they are our essential partners for a huge number of every day challenges.

The CAP has evolved to provide people with other vital public goods beyond food – the policy also promotes clean water and air, a well-managed countryside with good living conditions, and the maintenance of our biodiversity for future generations.

Farmers and rural communities are our vital "boots on the ground" to do this important work. And the incentives provided via the CAP are realistically the only incentives capable of addressing rural living conditions, hugely important environment and climate targets, as well as the survival and development of a sector of strategic importance.

The agri-food sector is indeed a production system that integrates innovation and more value across the whole chain, from primary production until final products and consumers – therefore impacting all citizens.

So you can see that the economic viability of the farming sector is a pre-condition not only for production of quality and safe food, but also for the sustainable management of resources and the provision of environmental public goods.

In supporting our farmers, we can and indeed already do ask them to do more in terms of their contribution to the priorities of this Commission, our international obligations for climate and environment and other societal goals and objectives, and for that they should be rewarded. If you listen to citizens, their voice is clear: support our farmers and our sustainable, safe and high quality food production.

Viable rural communities are necessary to ensure the social sustainability of the vast majority of EU territory, and our farm families are the beating heart of these communities. They provide employment, support local services and add value, notably through innovation.

We therefore need to ensure that a new generation of young and innovative farmers have access to the profession. A modernised, simplified CAP is the best bet for providing strong solutions to all these inter-related challenges.

Smart and sustainable farming also makes good economic sense, because good food means good business. The CAP is today at the root of a vibrant European agri-food sector, which supports upwards of 44 million jobs in the EU – many of them in our rural areas, where these jobs are urgently needed.

And the evidence shows that we can do even more. It is sufficient to look at the performance of agricultural exports to realise the huge potential for further growth and job creation. Since 2011, our agri-food exports have grown by 29%, outpacing all other sectors.

We are now exporting €131bn of produce - with a surplus of €18.8 billion. This is not just a figure - it is a huge amount of wealth being transferred to rural areas across Europe, in reward for the production of high quality, sustainable produce. 

It is fair to say that agriculture is one of the main drivers of Ireland's economic recovery in the past number of years, with a third of all jobs created coming from the agri-food sector.

In conclusion, it is great to be back in the real home of hurling - I look forward to hearing your questions and comments on the future of Europe.

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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.

 

20/10/2016

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

 

Introduction

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.

 

Brexit

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.

 

Conclusion

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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Image of the EU marquee at the Ploughing
Image of the EU marquee at the Ploughing

What is the EU doing for Agriculture and Rural Communities? Visit our stand at the Ploughing and find out!

Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, has recently made proposals for a far-reaching modernisation and simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the period 2020-2027. The proposal calls for an upgraded, strong and well-funded CAP to support the wellbeing of the farming and food sectors, while aiming to deliver real results for all Europeans, in a broad range of areas including the environment, climate change and rural job creation. Come and find out what these proposals would mean for you at the European Union Stand. Experts on the CAP have travelled from Brussels to answer your questions.

Date: 
18/09/2018 - 09:00 to 20/09/2018 - 18:00

Engage with MEPs: Find out the latest news from Irish Members of the European Parliament and have your say in our online survey about the future of Europe. MEPs from the European Parliament's Agricultural Committee will be attending on Wednesday 19 September. The Committee's remit includes: the CAP, animal health and welfare, plant health, agricultural products quality, forestry and agroforestry.

Farmers' queries: This is a unique opportunity to get specialist information on all your farming queries.  The European Commission will have experts on-hand to reply to your questions on the EU's veterinary rules and agricultural issues.

Participate in Citizens' Dialogue: Staff from the European Commission and European Parliament will be on hand to respond to your questions, queries and views about Europe, what it is doing for Ireland and where it should be headed.

Consumer Protection Advice: Find out what your cross-border EU rights are when shopping online, your EU air passenger rights, what happens if your holiday goes wrong, and more. We'll have para-legal advisers from the European Consumer Centre at our stand.

European Structural and Investment Funds: Discover what the EU is doing in your Region through the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund. These Funds work together to invest in education, research, transition to low carbon economy, urban regeneration and job creation, contributing to a sustainable and healthy economy across the whole of the country.

European Movement Ireland: How can you influence the future of Europe, what has ‘cake’ to do with Brexit, and what is Spitzenkandidaten? Find out everything you ever wanted to know about the EU from European Movement Ireland. Plus advice and information on working and studying in the EU, including job and traineeship opportunities in the EU institutions.

Funding for local projects: The Europe for Citizens programme gives EU grants to local projects like town twinning, cultural events and advocacy groups. Find out if your project is eligible – come and meet advisers from The Wheel who run this programme in Ireland.

Schools: A range of free material on the European Union - including books, brochures and maps - is available for teachers and students.

And Kids' Corner: Scalextric is back! Try our energy bike to see if you can pedal-power a Scalextric circuit with electric toy racing cars. Test yourself against the competition! And an interactive quiz for kids - the more you know the more prizes you get!

More information

Further information about Irish agriculture and the EU is available here.

Commissioner Phil Hogan: Building the Future of EU Food & Farming

If you are not at the Ploughing and have any questions about the European Union, you can pay the website of the European Commission Representation in Ireland a visit:  www.euireland.ie or call us on 01 634 11 11.

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The European Commission Representation in Ireland will host an event on the "Future of Europe - CAP reform" on Friday morning 1 June from 10.30 am to 12 noon.

The event will start with an address (by videolink) by EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan on the Commission's CAP legislative proposals due to be adopted on 1 June. The Commissioner's address will be broadcast live here at 10.30 am.

It will be followed by a Q&A with Tom Tynan, Member of Commissioner Hogan's Cabinet and Christiane Kirketerp de Viron, Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development

The event will be moderated by Gerry Kiely, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland.

 

 

Date: 
01/06/2018 - 10:30 to 12:00

 

If you are interested in attending please register by at COMM-IE-RECEPTION@ec.europa.eu

Background

The Common Agricultural Policy has come a long way over the last half century, adapting to meet new challenges and changing circumstances. If we are to build on its achievements so far, the CAP needs to be adapted to meet the changing demands being made on the agriculture sector. We must work towards a modernised CAP which encourages sustainability, innovation and resilience, enabling farmers and rural communities to face new and emerging challenges well into the future.

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