The European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development today held a crucial vote on Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) reform. Months of negotiations on amendments and compromise texts have allowed MEPs to put forward a cohesive position with which to enter into negotiations with the European Council.

Speaking following the voting session, Ireland East MEP and Member of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Liam Aylward welcomed the leadership and decisiveness shown by the Parliament but urged a cautious reaction to the outcome of the vote.

“We voted on over 7,500 amendments to the Common Agricultural Policy today and while it is too soon to give a detailed analysis of the implications of each decision at farm level, in broad terms, the flexibility secured for Member States will allow them to shape the policy to the specificity of their agricultural sector,” said Mr Aylward.

On the key issue of flattening of direct payments and the move towards area payments, the Ireland East MEP remains unconvinced that the options on the table represent the best deal for Ireland.

“There are close to 140,000 family farms in Ireland and with the inevitable and unavoidable move towards area based payment, it is clear that there will be winners and losers.

“The text put through in the Committee today presents options for Member States to choose from, however the devil is in the detail in determining who will be the beneficiaries and who will pay the price for the move towards flattened payments.

“While these decisions now rest with the European leaders and the Irish government, we must avoid a situation where our most productive farmers are penalised, where large landholders with minimal productivity levels gain and the smaller farmers in more marginal areas are squeezed out.”

Reacting to other aspects of the Report, the Ireland East MEP highlighted the significant potential for Irish rural communities and Irish farmers under the Rural Development provisions.

“There are many new recommendations under the Rural Development Programme which will have a significant impact on key sectors and will boost both farming and rural communities, in particular in the forestry sector which features strongly in the Parliament’s Report.

“I am pleased that my objective of increasing the focus on farm safety was widely supported, as well as an increased role for Farm Advisory Services and significant new measures for farm and business developments.

“The focus on short supply chains, agri-tourism, agri-environmental measures and community-led local development initiatives all have the potential to generate growth in the regions and add another dimension to the sustainability of vibrant rural communities.”

The vote held today covered Direct Payments, Rural Development and market management items. MEPs will vote on ‘Financing and Monitoring the CAP’ tomorrow morning.

There will be a vote in the European Parliament Plenary in March before formal negotiations can begin between the Parliament, European Council and European Commission under the Irish Presidency.

“The next stage of negotiations will get underway after the Plenary vote in March, however there will be no progress made without an agreement on the budget at the next Council meeting in February. This agreement is crucial if these reforms are to be implemented in time,” Mr Aylward concluded.