Written answers

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Department of Agriculture and Food

Common Agricultural Policy

2:00 pm

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Question 66: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to further discuss the future of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40770/10]

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Question 76: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the discussions he has had in relation to the future of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40769/10]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 80: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his proposals to ensure that the agricultural sector is not negatively affected in any reform of the Common Agriculture Policy and ultimately World Trade Organisation having particular regard to the pivotal role for agriculture in this country's economic recovery; if he will ensure that during any such negotiations a trade off is not agreed which could seriously damage this country's economic prospects even further; his views in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40538/10]

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 66, 76 and 80 together.

My view is that the agriculture and food production sector is hugely important in the context of Europe's economic and industrial recovery. It contributes to all three priorities of the EU 2020 strategy of smart, green and inclusive growth. Its importance has been acknowledged in the conclusions by the Heads of State and Government at the spring European Council and in the recently released EU budget review document by the Commission. For Ireland the future CAP will determine the policy framework for the successful delivery of our Food Harvest 2020 strategy and it will be of vital importance to ensure that it underpins that strategy.

In the circumstances, my priority is to ensure that the proposed reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy results in a strong and properly resourced policy in the years ahead. There is good support for this position among my colleagues in the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers. I want the current two pillar structure to be continued with a primary focus of pillar 1 on the support of farm income and the main focus of pillar 2 on the development of agriculture in rural areas. I am also determined to ensure that any WTO agreement reached is balanced in all its dimensions and does not impact negatively on EU or Irish agriculture.

Although formal negotiations have yet to commence, there has been a high level of activity and debate regarding the future CAP among Member States over the past two years with formal policy debates taking place in the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers as well as informal contacts and meetings at bilateral level, the production of position papers by stakeholder organisations and a full-scale consultation process initiated by the Commission.

I and my Department have participated actively in all of these discussions with a view to building up alliances and pressing the Irish viewpoint. In addition to representing the Irish view at formal and informal meetings of EU Agriculture Ministers, I have had bilateral meetings with the Commissioner and with colleagues from a number of other Member States. I travelled to Poland and Hungary last July to meet my Ministerial counterparts. I had discussions in Dublin last month with my German Ministerial colleague and I have arranged meetings with my French and UK colleagues for the coming months.

These contacts are proving very productive in deepening our understanding of each others positions and in establishing support for the Irish position in the negotiations. I had the pleasure of welcoming Commissioner Ciolos to Ireland last month. It was an opportune time for such a visit just as the Commission was finalising its thinking on its formal communication.

At official level too, we have engaged actively with our colleagues in other Member States, the Commission and the European Parliament. There have been a number of bilateral meetings and contacts and we have shared information and analysis, discussed policy positions and explained the Irish context and viewpoint. This work has also proved very effective in gaining understanding and acceptance of the Irish position.

I am also continuing to consult widely on the domestic front. I had the opportunity of addressing the Joint Committee on Agriculture on the occasion of the EU Commissioner's visit and of hearing their views. Earlier in the year I established a Consultative Committee to advise me on the CAP after 2013. That Committee is composed of all of the major farming and agriculture related representative organisations involved in social partnership as well as a number of academics and officials. The Committee had its first meeting last May and went on to participate in the Stakeholder event I organised during the visit of Commissioner Ciolos. Its upcoming meeting later this month will be addressed by a senior Commission official.

The formal Commission communication on the future of the CAP will be released later this month with legislative proposals due to follow in mid 2011. We have a long way to go before we arrive at a conclusion of these negotiations. They will not be easy but I am determined to fight for the best possible outcome for Irish agriculture. Agriculture is our largest indigenous industry and we have much to gain from a successful outcome.

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