18 April 2014

Minister ONeill comments on EU budget proposals


Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA has commented on EU Commission proposals for the EU Budget 2014-2020.

The Minister said: “These proposals have been prepared, and the forthcoming negotiations will take place, against a backdrop of very intense pressure on public expenditure across the EU. Given that background, I am very much heartened by the implicit recognition within the Commission’s proposals of the continued importance of the CAP and the need to maintain an adequate budget. There had been fears that the CAP budget would be slashed and so from that perspective, I welcome the Commission’s proposal that the CAP budget should be retained at current levels. However, I recognise that this will represent a reduction in real terms, and that will be a challenge for the industry.”

The Minister continued: “I would broadly welcome a number of the other concepts concerning the CAP in the EU Commission’s proposals, particularly relating to the capping of direct payments and the ability to retain any monies generated. As I’ve indicated previously, I am certainly drawn to the idea of support going towards active farmers and can appreciate the rationale for the greening of Pillar 1 payments. The challenge in the forthcoming CAP reform negotiations will be to turn these concepts into reality in a way that avoids undesired and unwelcome side effects and without imposing disproportionate costs and administrative burdens. On the issue of greening, we must guard against this effectively undermining the income support that is currently provided by the Single Farm Payment.”

The Minister concluded: “I would stress that these are only proposals at this stage and tough negotiations lie ahead. I will continue to make the case that Single Farm Payment be retained and for an increase in our unjustifiably low share of the EU Rural Development Budget. Over the forthcoming months, I intend to discuss these proposals with Executive colleagues, the British Government and the Irish Government, including at the North/South Ministerial Council. I also intend to meet the EU Commission.”

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