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Cavan CAP Forum takes a critical look at the proposed reforms

A full house attended a cross-border forum in Cavan on Friday last, 25th November, where the proposed changes to the Common Agriculture Policy were outlined by speakers that included MEPs Mairead McGuinness, Bairbre de Brún and Esther de Lange of the Netherlands, as well as Neil Parish, a member of the UK House of Commons who had previously chaired the EP Agriculture Committee.

Dr. Vanessa Woods, Bernard Donohue & Mairead McGuinness MEP
Dr. Vanessa Woods, Bernard Donohue & Mairead McGuinness MEP

Betty Lee of the European Commission  had initially outlined the proposed changes to the CAP. The views of farmers  were put forward by John Bryan, President of the IFA, Alan Jagoe, President of Macra na Feirme and John Thompson, President of the Ulster Farmers Union.The meeting was chaired by Dr Tom Kelly, Director of Knowledge Transfer of Teagasc.

All speakers were critical of many aspects of the proposals and a common theme was the need to focus the CAP on food security and production and on assisting younger and active farmers, although speakers were also unhappy with the Commission's definition of "active" farming. All the politicians present called on farming organisations to examine the proposed reforms in detail and to develop their own proposals to guide MEPs in their revision of the text.

Mairead McGuinness MEP outlined the process and timetable for consideration of the proposals on which the European Parliament would  "co-decide" for the first time.  Ms McGuinness pointed out that the EU was now trying to do more with less money and was operating in a "budgetary straitjacket", but that, at the very least, the current budget should be maintained.  She then outlined the problems associated with redistribution of the limited budget, the greening of the CAP, and of concentration of power with retailers within the food chain.

Bairbre de Brún was highly critical of the proposed reference year of 2014 which would lead she said to a "land grab". She was also critical of the proposed transition period to 2019 which she described as too short.  

Ms de Lange described the current debate on CAP reform within the Netherlands, including whether there should be such a policy in the first place. Moreover, half the EU money coming to the Netherlands was from the CAP, and yet many were arguing for a decrease in the agricultural budget. She also considered that the Commission's proposals on greening were unworkable in the Netherlands context, not least as regards the maintenance of permanent grassland where the situation was very different from in Ireland or the UK.

Neil Parish said that the current proposals would drive the industry backwards. He stressed the need for a competitive agricultural sector in Europe and considered that, with current population trends, Europe should focus more on food security and production.