20th Mar 2018

EU ministers hail 'watershed' agreement on farm policy

  • The common agricultural policy accounts for 40 percent of the EU budget. (Photo: freefotouk)

European agricultural ministers reached an agreement on Tuesday (19 March) to overhaul the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP).

Ireland’s Simon Coveney, who chaired the two-day marathon talks that ended late Tuesday evening, hailed the agreement as a “watershed moment.”

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Ministers agreed to a principle of flexibility on how direct payments to farmers are distributed in member states.

Coveney said the scheme would lower the transfers of payments between farmers and “allows the Irish model of partial convergence to be included in the options available for the distribution of direct payments.”

The decision runs counter to the European Commission’s initial proposal of flat-rate payments per hectare in each region or member state, which aimed to create a more uniform distribution of funds across the Union.

The commission said such a scheme would be mandatory for all member states from 2019 onwards.

Member states decided instead for a partial convergence by 2019.

Ministers also inserted “additional flexibility” into the commission’s proposal, which ties 30 percent of direct payments to "greening."

“On greening, we have ensured that the payment may be a percentage of each farmer’s individual payment rather than a flat rate," said Coveney.

Farmers will have to claw back soil carbon output as part of the green element of the farm reform.

They will also be required to improve ecosystems, through a variety of means, including crop diversification.

The ministers proposed a progressive application of the crop diversification requirements. They also noted that exemptions to the requirement need to better clarified.

Final negotiations with the European Parliament and the European commission are expected in June.

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