The European Commission, in its failure to attend a debate in the European Parliament yesterday evening on the future of the LFAs (Less Favoured Areas Scheme), has communicated its lack of commitment to farmers in areas of natural disadvantage.
Speaking during the debate Liam Aylward, MEP for Ireland East and Member of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development criticised the distain of the Commission in being present and has called for the LFAs to be separated from the wider CAP debate so its importance to rural areas is not overshadowed.
“Given the importance of LFAs for rural communities it is unacceptable that the Commission did not attend the debate to give an updated assessment on the progress of this important scheme.”
From an economic perspective, the Less Favoured Areas Scheme is particularly significant; contributing to the support of in excess of 100,000 Irish farm families, whose ability to farm is restricted by the physical environment, in particular, the impact of the prevailing wet and cold climatic conditions in Ireland.
It emerged during the debate that little progress has been made on this issue and there will be no opportunity for an accurate impact assessment to be conducted. The Ireland East MEP observed:
“It is clear Member States need time to gather information and compile accurate maps. Member States have been facing delays with the preparation and submission of the maps of areas that would be eligible for Less-Favoured Area payments. It is unacceptable that the Commission was not there to answer questions on this situation and the Council was not in a position to supply answers.”
There was widespread consensus among the MEPs contributing to the debate that the current situation is untenable, farmers deserve more respect and that the LFA issue must be addressed in full without delay.
“Farmers making a living in Less Favoured Areas face additional hurdles in trying to make a fair return for fair work. The market does not respect nor take into account the additional and costly challenges facing farmers in areas at a natural disadvantage. They should not have to face additional hurdles in terms of the lack of commitment from European leaders and the Commission to this important scheme.”