[Sinn Fein]

22nd January 2003

Ferris Calls For Full And Open Debate On CAP Reform

The Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD has called for a full and open debate to take place on the proposed reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy. Deputy Ferris was speaking following the adoption by the Commission of the reforms that have been framed by Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler.

Ferris said; ``The adoption of the proposed reforms make it a matter of urgency that they are subject to a full and open debate on the implications which they will have for Irish agriculture. To date the Government appears to have been content to place their hopes on the prospect of France being able to block the proposals. It is now clear that this will not happen and that we need to be able to properly evaluate their effects and to put forward our own suggestions on how the reforms should be implemented.

``I welcome the fact that Commissioner Fischler reiterated the principle that those who farm rather than own the land will receive the decoupled payment. That confirms what he said in reply to a question which I asked him before the Dáil Committee on European Affairs last November when the Commissioner stated unequivocally that `` - the money must go to those who run a farm, not to those who own land.''

``It is Sinn Fein's belief that the CAP does need to be reformed and we would be in broad agreement with many of the objectives outlined. That decoupling, for example, would not have such a disastrous effect as predicted has been recognised in the report launched yesterday by Minister Walsh. We would also support any measure to guarantee the survival of small family farms, to promote higher quality production rather than production for subsidies, and to release greater funds for rural development that would go to improving the overall quality of life in rural areas and not simply concentrate on agriculture as an economic activity. There is also an obligation on the EU to end trading practises that condemn millions in the under developed countries to poverty and starvation.

``I accept that many farmers and most of their representatives have been totally opposed to any changes in the CAP. However, given the current crisis in Irish farming, it must be recognised that the CAP has not been wholly advantageous. It has not prevented tens of thousands of family farms being lost, nor cushioned thousands more against crippling poverty. It has also disproportionately benefited the larger farmers who harvest the vast majority of funds. It could also be argued that it has prevented the development here of a higher quality production geared to domestic processing.

``Fischler said today that the changes made since the original proposals last July were as a consequence of discussion within the Commission and at the last EU Summit. It is clear therefore that the best way to influence the reforms is to participate fully in the debate and ensure that Irish concerns are properly addressed.''

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