[Sinn Fein]

14th May 2003

Sinn Fein welcome IFA move on CAP reform

The Sinn Fein spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD, has welcomed the decision of the IFA to engage on a more positive level with the current proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. Sinn Fein has already indicated that it is in broad support of the proposals with the proviso that certain changes are made regarding income thresholds and the use of modulated funds. The party, which last week was engaged in high level talks with EU Agriculture Commission officials on the reforms, has argued since the publication of the proposals last July that Irish farming representatives needed to be actively engaged in the debate, and to be presenting their own counter-proposals.

Deputy Ferris said:

``It has long been apparent to Sinn Fein that the Common Agricultural Policy as it currently stands is not going to secure the interests of Irish farmers in the years ahead. Reform is needed and we believe that much of what is contained in the current proposals presents a way forward. Decoupling certainly appears to offer a solution to the problem of guaranteeing farmers income while at the same time allowing them to produce without being tied to the current wasteful system of premia and subsidies. We would, however, argue that certain changes ought to be introduced at this stage and we made several such suggestions in discussion with Mr Pirozi-Biroli and Mr Haniotis in Brussels last week. Among these would be to raise the exemption threshold from ¤5,000 to ¤20,000 and to introduce an upper limit. We would also like to see guarantees regarding the use of the monies saved through modulation, and in particular that they remain within their country of origin. We will also be arguing for a much broader programme of rural development to enable rural communities to deal with the changes that will follow reform.

``While much of the emphasis from the two Departments of Agriculture in Ireland has been on the need for farmers to become `competitive', we detected a different tone emanating from Brussels. Officials did refer to the need for agriculture to become more market oriented, but put this in the context of de-coupling and the opportunity for Irish farmers to move towards higher quality higher value production. If farmers are guaranteed a certain level of income security, which we believe can be enhanced by raising the exemption threshold, they will then be free to concentrate on producing quality. Again, that presents an opportunity to capitalise on Ireland's natural advantages and to move away from the historical dependence on bulk export of relatively cheap raw material''.

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