[Sinn Fein]

22nd May 2003

Sinn Fein rejects partial decoupling

Commenting upon the adoption by the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee of a consultation report on CAP reform, the Sinn Fein Spokespersons on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD and Gerry McHugh MLA have rejected its proposal for partial de-coupling. The Committee has called for direct payments to be maintained in all areas other than arable crops and beef, and that in the latter that payments only be partly decoupled. The Committee made its decision on the basis that full decoupling would lead to farmers abandoning production and to desertification and regional disparities.


Deputy Ferris and Mr McHugh said;


``We do not accept that farmers will abandon production if decoupling is introduced. Indeed, given the requirement to comply with a range of environmental and other measures, that would be impossible as farmers will only be entitled to payments if they comply and compliance will require maintaining the land. As has been explained by a number of people involved in the sector, partial decoupling would be a disaster. We regard decoupling as a means to guarantee a certain level of income and allow farmers to move away from subsidy-based production.

  ``We do, however, see merit in some of the other proposals approved by the Committee. These include the raising of the threshold above which payments will begin to be reduced, although we would favour a higher level than  ¤7,500. We also agree that all of the money obtained through the reduction is invested in the rural development measures, and that all of the modulated funding be allocated through the member states where it originates. However, we believe that this aspect of the reform proposals will only work if tied to  decoupling.  

``There are other aspects of the proposals which we hope to see modified including the conditions governing the entitlements of young farmers. We will be following the progress of the negotiations with interest in the hope that Minister Walsh and the Department of Agriculture will be making proposals along the lines we advocate in the interests of the majority of Irish farmers, north and south".



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