Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Reform 2014-2020 and Ireland’s next Rural Development Plan was discussed today at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture when secretary general of the Department of Agriculture, Tom Moran, outlined its six-monthly EU scrutiny report.

According to Moran, key CAP decisions will be made over the coming weeks and Ireland has been given a “high level of discretion” for its implementation.

In his opening address, he noted the majority of new measures will apply from 2015.  “While financial elements such as the new financial ceilings and share-out of funds between member states will apply from the beginning of 2014, transitional measures have been put in place for the bridging year of 2014 for the majority of measures,” he said.

One of the most important issue for Ireland is the method for distribution of direct payments, he said.

“On this issue we faced proposals from the European Commission for mandatory movement to a flat rate of payment per hectare, which would potentially have had a negative effect on our capacity for sustainable production.  The agreement that member states have the option to apply the partial convergence model, as suggested initially by Ireland, subject to a minimum payment per farmer of 60 per cent of the national or regional average payment per hectare by 2019, is a reasonable and balanced compromise and a very good outcome for this country,” he outlined.

On greening, Moran said: “There is a good balance struck between the three institutions on the practical implementation of the three proposed greening criteria of crop diversification, maintenance of permanent grassland and ecological focus areas.”

On young farmers, he noted: “Ireland was one of the first member states in the European Union to propose such a payment so as to encourage generational renewal in the agriculture sector.”

The secretary-general also outlined the recent CAP consultation process “to ascertain views on the most appropriate application of the direct payment regulation in light of Ireland’s unique agricultural profile and circumstances”.

“The consultation process closed on 20 September with a total of 46 submissions and these are receiving careful consideration.  In addition modelling of the various scenarios that have arisen is also ongoing in the department. This committee has already received a detailed briefing from senior officials from the department on the various options involved,” he explained.

Moran also informed the committee that the Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, is expected to make a decision on CAP within the coming weeks.

In terms of the new Rural Development Plan, he said the drafting of this is well under way.

“Following an initial consultation process in 2012, 80 written submissions were received and analysed by the department,” he explained. ” A second consultation was held in July 2013, where stakeholders attended a full day workshop. Based on the outcome of these processes, the drafting of the new programme is being advanced by the department and it is intended that further stakeholder consultation will form part of this.”

He said the Agriculture Minister is set to make a decision on RDP by the end of the year.

The Agriculture Department is required to submit reports every six months to the Oireachtas Committee on agricultural developments at a EU level.

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