AGRICULTURE MINISTER SIMON Coveney said that Irish farmers have had a “tough” year so far and that he is “very conscious” of their frustrations and stress as he arrived for another round of CAP negotiations at Dublin Castle this morning.
“It has been a really bad year for Irish farmers,” he told reporters ahead of a meeting of European Union agriculture ministers, citing “extraordinary weather patterns”, the horsemeat scandal and the fodder crisis.
“We have never had to import grass before,” he said. “Ireland is one of the most efficient growers of grass in Europe.”
The Minister, who is current chair of the Council of Agriculture Ministers, said he was “energised and determined” to get a good deal for Irish and European farmers during CAP discussions. We want to give them certainty in the future about payments, he claimed.
However, the Fine Gael TD warned there was “a lot of things to do” before a final compromise was reached.
“This process is not over the line yet. There are difficult issues to be resolved.” Those possible roadblocks include budgets, greening payments, internal convergence and voluntary-coupled support.
If there is a “perfect-case scenario”, Coveney said a final and legal decision will be made in a trilogue at the European Parliament following talks with the Council and European Commission in June. He said willingness and flexibility would be required from the three institutions for such an outcome.
Members of the IFA will protest outside Dublin Castle after a warning from President John Bryan that CAP Reform must support active, productive farmers. Any other result would deliver a “serious blow” to Irish farmers’ production base and represent “political failure by the Minister”, it said in a statement.
The association remains opposed to a mandatory minimum payment, noting that if the flexibilities on the payments achieved in March were lost, it would be a “watershed moment” for Coveney’s credibility.
“The Minister for Agriculture must stand his ground and insist that the flexibilities agreed at the March meeting, which did not include a minimum payment, are retained in the final deal.”