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Question: What would you change about Europe's agricultural policy?

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is due to be reformed in 2020.

In our audit of the Dublin European election candidates, we asked candidates to answer questions on nine of the most pressing issues facing Ireland and Europe in the coming years. 

What would you change about Europe’s agricultural policy?

Rita Harrold 

Large agribusiness industry should be taken into democratic public ownership as part of a major plan to switch to a rapid transition to environmental sustainability.

Suppliers and farmers should be assisted and incentivised to shift from beef and dairy to more socially useful and sustainable farming and forestry. Society’s wealth and resources must be used to meet the needs of people and the environment, not the profits of a few.

Barry Andrews 

CAP payments are the backbone of Irish farming, sustaining rural communities, ensuring food security, with payments making up around 75% of total Irish farm income.

The next CAP must further integrate and safeguard the family farm model of agriculture that places economic, environmental and socially sustainable farming at its heart.

Any reduction in CAP funding must be resisted as it would fundamentally undermine the sustainability of rural communities and lead to land abandonment.

Lynn Boylan

There is huge inequality in farm incomes and many small farmers are existing on ever decreasing income. The re-design of the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020 provides an opportunity to correct current imbalances and protect the family farm model and incentivise sustainable practices. The Irish government should also immediately re-open the organic farming scheme.

It is crazy that in the midst of the climate emergency that those farmers who want to go organic aren’t being supported. I would also want to see continued access to CAP funding for farmers in the North post-Brexit and environmental schemes within CAP to properly incentivise conservation, environmental protection and biodiversity.

Gary Gannon

Our agricultural policies must become more responsive to current and future challenges such as climate change – this means talking about how we can help agricultural businesses to reduce their carbon footprint, with a focus on small and medium farmers as part of a long-term commitment to the development of micro renewable energy.

The upcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy should focus on incentivising farmers to place a greater emphasis on environmental protections, climate and biodiversity. The funding model should ensure that smaller farmers are supported to a greater degree than under the current CAP.

Alex White 

Environmental protection, water quality and reducing carbon emissions must be at the heart of EU agricultural policy.

I firmly believe the necessary decisions we take now will benefit the sector in the decades to come. Our way of producing and processing food will have to change. We need to face up to that reality now and change our agricultural policy to acknowledge that reality.

Clare Daly

We need to urgently move away from intensive, industrial-scale meat and dairy production. Such farming is both an ecological and climate disaster, and continuing to subsidise it is madness given the urgency of the biodiversity and climate issues we face.

The reformed CAP to be implemented after 2021 has been sold by the European Commission as a big step forward in ‘greening’ agriculture. But while it wants to give the impression of talking a good game, there’s little that’s actually solid in it in terms of climate action. There are no quantified climate targets, and the fact that objectives are vaguely defined is a massive problem (there are shades in this of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill in Ireland, and we’ve seen how completely ineffective that has been). There is nothing in the proposals that specifically addresses the huge environmental and health impacts of Europe’s intensive meat and dairy sector, which is incredible.

Clearly we need a CAP system that includes strong and concrete incentives for working in a climate and ecologically friendly way, that includes sanctions for failure to meet environmental and climate objectives, and that ends subsidies to factory farms and destructive intensive agriculture. We don’t have time for green-washing or tinkering around the edges, and that’s all we’ve seen coming out of Europe so far.

Ciarán Cuffe 

Source: Claire Behan

I think CAP reform is a very big issue for the next European parliament. We’re saying we want to favour small farmers and move away from the industrialisation of farming.

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Mark Durkan

Essentially, I would focus on having more schemes under Pillar 2 which deals with rural development and the future of CAP policy so that it is more directly about our climate objectives. Within that we would also need to continue to support farm investment to support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged farmers so that they don’t see the climate action change as being burdensome on them or disqualifying them from remaining in the sector.

Frances Fitzgerald

Farmers are a major contributor to our economy. However, we know that agriculture in Ireland is a major emitter of carbon. Therefore I would like to see the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020 become more sustainable and to offer incentives to farmers to make those fundamental changes in the their farming infrastructure, their methods of farming and the type of farming that they practice.

Alice Mary Higgins 

If Brexit goes ahead, Irish agriculture will need significant support from EU institutions. However such resources should also be used to support Irish farming in making the significant changes necessary in terms of biodiversity and climate change.

Farmers need to be supported over the coming years as they will play an instrumental role in the transition to a low-carbon economy –I believe the next round of CAP funding will have to place a far greater emphasis on environmental stewardship, including supports to preserve land such as boglands and the removal of requirements for upland clearance. However in terms of biodiversity and emissions, the new CAP will want actual detail on things like species and soil quality. The damage done to birds, bees, and hedgerows under the Heritage Bill has been incredibly short-sighted in that regard.

I want our national pollinator plan to become statutory and I will be pushing for similar measures at EU level. Pollinators are also crucial for horticulture, high quality vegetable and fruit production is one direction Ireland should be moving in as our current over emphasis on beef is not sustainable in the long-term.

Mark Mullen

mark mullan for europe

The Post 2020 re-design of the Common Agricultural Policy presents the opportunity to work intensively towards tackling the huge inequality in farming incomes.  The recently declared climate emergency naturally dictates a need for encouraging organic and sustainable farming practices, therefore we must also re-open the organic farming scheme to encourage climate responsible farming adoption.

I would look to push that the CAP budget is not reduced for 2021-2027 as a reduction would impact the income and livelihoods of small to medium-sized farmers and their families in Ireland.  More attention needs to be given to ensuring that farmers in developing countries are provided with adequate support. They must be given access to supply European markets so that the trade is both equitable and fair. 

About the author:

Kathleen McNamee

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