Thursday, 26 November 2009
Common Agricultural Policy.
Question 10: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in the context of the Common Agricultural Policy post 2013, it is his intention to pursue the prioritisation of premium payments for low carbon grass based production systems as a policy objective; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43598/09]
I am open to examining the benefits of premium payments for low carbon grass based production systems in the context of the future Common Agricultural Policy, along with the other policy options that are being put on the table. However, I believe it would be premature to direct Irish policy solely in such a specific direction at this time.
The discussions on the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013 are still at a very early stage. Although policy analysis and general debates have commenced in a number of member states, including Ireland, they are still primarily concerned with the broad outlines and general principles. These include big ticket issues, such as the amount of funding that will be available, the overall direction of the direct payments system, the positioning of rural development policy in the CAP or with cohesion policy, the need for continued market supports, the question of national co-financing and the need for modulation. In the circumstances, my priority at present is to secure a strong and adequately resourced CAP after 2013. This is a point I have pressed strongly in discussions to date and for which there is good support in the Agriculture Council.
I am conscious of the importance to the EU of ensuring security of food supply and maintaining family farming. However, as a Minister of an exporting country, I am also conscious of the need for competitiveness and innovation. I hope to see all of these objectives clearly reflected in the new CAP.
Not only are we facing challenges in food production, but we will also have to deal with carbon emissions by meeting new targets on renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction. In terms of carbon emissions per unit of food produced, this is one of the most efficient countries on the planet. If we can agree a standard of equivalence, it makes sense to push the food security agenda in a carbon friendly manner. That could form part of our basis for securing CAP funding.
I share the concerns of Deputies Doyle and Sherlock. We need to join up our thinking on climate change policy and the future of CAP. Teagasc and other institutes have been conducting research on methane gas emission from livestock and grasses. I have consistently raised with the Council of Ministers the need to ensure that the EU's proposal to the Copenhagen summit gives due cognisance to the importance of food security. Along with New Zealand, our food production system is regarded as the most efficient in the world. If we produce food efficiently, our production base should not be weakened in the context of a growing population and increasing global demands. We have already brought these issues to the table in respect of the future of CAP and the debate on climate change.