CAP Simplification To Benefit 20,000 Irish Farms

Legislation is due shortly on other simplifications proposed by the Commission, along with amendments to Ireland’s CAP strategic plan.

At least 20,000 Irish farmers will be among those across Europe to benefit from CAP simplification.

But environmentalists are not pleased, with 140 organisations publishing an open letter in which they say they are horrified that so many politicians across Europe are “threatening the basis of life on earth” in order to provide “false solutions to farmers’ hardships”.

“Small farmers with 10 ha or below will not be subject to inspections for conditionality, which was formerly known as cross-compliance, and therefore any financial penalties. This is a simplification for up to 20,000 farmers in Ireland”, said Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Martin Heydon in the Dáil, when he welcomed the European Commission’s simplification proposals to help farmers overwhelmed by bureaucracy, and to help the administrators of common agricultural policy (CAP) funding.

Legislation is due shortly on other simplifications proposed by the Commission, along with amendments to Ireland’s CAP strategic plan

Minister of State Heydon said the 20,000 farmers must continue to meet the conditions required, but will not be inspected or penalised under conditionality. “Other farmers above 10ha will still be subject to conditionality controls and any penalties arising. This change will apply to claims made in 2024”.

Minister of State Heydon said this first year of the new CAP was challenging for farmers, and for the Department. “The current CAP has introduced new rules on performance reporting, and an increased focus on improving the environmental sustainability of the sector. Farmers across Europe and in Ireland have been highlighting the many challenges they are facing, and the difficulties in managing these, when considering changing climatic and economic conditions”.

He added: “The Minister and I and our officials will continue to work with the Commission and other member states to further simplify the CAP.”

On other simplifications proposed by the Commission, he said legislation is due shortly, along with amendments to Ireland’s CAP strategic plan.

But EU environmental orgaisations condemned what they called an “opportunistic” rollback of EU green policies to gain political support ahead of the European Parliament elections in June.

Greenpeace, BirdLife, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, WWF, ClientEarth, the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, and GOB Mallorca were among regional, national, and international civil society organisations slamming reversal of EU sustainability policies for the agrifood sector, in an open letter.

They said no action was taken to address complaints of unfair trade practices and cheaper agricultural imports from non-EU countries. “The European Commission wants to scrap basic environmental standards for farms, to appease industry lobbyists, and agriculture ministers are threatening the EU’s new rules to fight global deforestation”.

“In recent months, Ursula von der Leyen’s European Commission has loosened pollution rules for industrial farms, dropped plans for sustainable food production, abandoned targets to reduce pesticides, and shelved efforts to ensure a resilient water supply”.

On April 24, the European Parliament gave its final green light to the proposed relaxations of some environmental conditions for receiving farmer subsidy payments.

The EU Council followed up with its approval on May 13.

Member states had earlier endorsed the so-called “simplification package” in March, following a wave of protests by EU farmers.

The text received broad support from country delegations, with only Germany abstaining.

The changes will be in force until the end of the current CAP period in 2027, and farmers can apply some of them retroactively for the 2024 subsidy claim year.

It is up to national administrations to determine how the measures will work in practice.

But environmental groups say the EU institutions disregarded democratic principles in the rush to approve the package.

In a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in March, environmental and consumer organisations joined up to condemn the scrapping of environmental requirements without an impact assessment, and after consulting with only four farming organisations.

But the Commission pointed out the “political urgency” of the measures to address “a crisis situation in EU agriculture”.

Environmentalists are unconvinced, with Marilda Dhaskali of BirdLife Europe recently saying relaxing environmental rules is a “convenient scapegoat for the real challenges farmers face”.

(Source – Irish Examiner – Farming – Stephen Cadogan – 21/05/2024)

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