Speaking ahead of the European Parliament vote on the Dess Report on the Future of the Common Agricultural Policy, Liam Aylward, MEP for Ireland East has stated that the agriculture budget must not been seen as the soft target for cuts in the EU budget for the next financing period..

“The budget discussions are ongoing internally in the European Commission at present.  Having met with representatives of the Commissioner for Agriculture last week, it is clear that the gloves are off internally in terms of securing budget allocations for each portfolio.”

There is a real dog fight on in terms of the allocation of limited resources from a budget that is stretched and while growth sectors such as Innovation and Research are central to the European economy, the importance of agriculture to the Europe in terms of the economy, employment, growth and trade cannot be overlooked.”

At present the share of CAP expenditure in the EU budget has steadily decreased from 75% in 1985 to a projected 39% in 2013.  However, when one then considers that following successive enlargements of the European Union, the area of agricultural land has increased by 40% and there are twice as many farmers as in 2004 – the demands on the agriculture budget are already evident.

According to the Ireland East MEP:

“There is also the question of food security. The challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050 against a background of a scarcity of water, energy and land is ahead of us. Reducing the capacity and hampering the competitiveness and viability of European farmers with a weak budget will be counterproductive.”

“Austere budgets require austere measures but the CAP is not an area where the Commission should be looking to cut corners and save on costs and investment.  The delivery of high quality agricultural produce, the protection of the environment and biodiversity and tackling climate change come with a cost.  Farmers deliver these to Europe and to consumers and it is just that they receive a fair return.”

A recent Eurobarometer poll found that 90% of EU citizens surveyed consider agriculture and rural areas to be important for Europe’s future while 83% of citizens surveyed are in favour of financial support to farmers.

“The polls show that public support is behind the CAP and a strong CAP budget.  Where the public have concerns about the allocation of CAP resources and the Single Farm Payments in particular, MEPs are calling for change and transparency.  The European Parliament Report on the Future of the CAP, which will be voted in the Parliament session this week, details modernisation and targeting payments at active farmers and young farmers, supporting environmental and greening measures and enhancing innovation.”

An announcement is expected from the European Commission on the 30th of June on the budget allocations for the next financing period. A legislative proposal on the CAP is scheduled for October this year, after which the European Parliament will have full and equal co-decision powers with the European Council on the final content of the legislation.