Wednesday, 6 February 2019
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations
I have not heard of bees as a livestock unit, but biodiversity and environmental sustainability will be a much more central element of the next Common Agricultural Policy.
The regulations as published require us, in getting to a strategic plan, to do a SWOT analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for Irish agriculture. This analysis also places an obligation to carry out a needs assessment for Irish agriculture into the future and to have an external evaluation of that process and of those two steps. That is why we are going to have a consultant look at what we have done, which itself is as a consequence of engagement with stakeholders. It is a complex process involving external oversight, with a consultant looking at what we are doing, but ultimately it is an issue that will be signed off by the Department, in consultation with stakeholders.
I have heard that criticism of the reference years, but looking at agriculture and entitlements today relative to 20 years ago, they bear little or no resemblance. Bearing in mind that, under the CAP, more than €100 million will have moved from farmers with high per hectare entitlements to farmers below the average level of entitlements, it is my view, which is contained within the document as published, that that journey of convergence will continue. It will be external, in that other member states will be looking for a greater share of the cake, and internal, in that, whatever the size of cake we get, there will be greater convergence. I have heard some people mention upward-only convergence, which baffles me to an extent as something of an oxymoron. There will be a continuation of the journey of convergence, however, which represents a greater equalisation and sharing out the spoils of the Common Agricultural Policy between all farmers.