[Sinn Fein]

23rd June 2003

CAP reform talks must be concluded

West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty, head of the party's national department of agriculture and rural development has urged Irish Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh and British direct rule agriculture Minster Ian Pearson to ensure that talks on CAP reform are concluded this week.

The Sinn Fein Vice President said:

``With the WTO talks in September and the 10 new countries joining the EU in October it is vital that the CAP talks are concluded this week. The uncertainty is not helping anyone in the farming industry - North or South - to start planning for the wholesale changes that will be brought about by the decoupling of farm payments >from production.

``If we fail to break this link then there is a real danger that the USA together with South America and the Asia Pacific would create a trade barrier against the EU. However we have to recognise the need for the EU and all developed countries to deal on a fair basis with developing countries in the forthcoming WTO talks.

``The compromise towards partial decoupling is ill conceived. This means keeping large numbers of animals to maintain incomes through subsidies. This will result in maintaining current levels of production, prices being pushed down and no one earning a living, particularly on the smaller farms we have in Ireland.

``We need to wake up to the potential of decoupling. It will guarantee farmers a certain level of income, not fixed to levels of production and allow farmers to move to a more quality orientated product, involving less stock numbers, which in turn will reduce environmental impacts.

Here in Ireland, Joe Walsh is sitting on the fence. The Irish government was totally opposed to decoupling and everything in the proposals. Walsh maintained that decoupling would create an exodus. The IFA were totally opposed to decoupling. Both criticised Fischler and everything he proposed, crucially they never engaged with the EU or put their counter positions to the Commission until recently.

Sinn Fein Agriculture Spokesperson, former Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh has said that what ever the final outcome of the negotiations around CAP reform this week that decoupling demands a radical shake up of how the agriculture departments - north and south - engage with the farming industry and rural communities.

Mr McHugh said:

``The key to successful CAP reform must be that the agriculture departments - North and South - commit themselves to eradicating red tape. The introduction of decoupling from 2006 will itself have an immediate impact in reducing red tape.

``We also need to see both departments working to maintain farming and rural communities. This means that they must listen. This means that from today we need a new culture of openness, accountability and accessibility. It means engaging not just at European level but also on the ground with farming and rural communities.

``Particularly in the South, the failure of Joe Walsh and the IFA to engage with Europe left our agriculture industry dangerously exposed. Thankfully the IFA has reassessed its' position and collectively we have forced Joe Walsh to wake up to the reality of decoupling. We need to build on that responsiveness.

Sinn Fein Rural development Spokesperson, Armagh Councillor Pat O'Rawe added that the new emphasis must be put on making rural development policy work.

Cllr O'Rawe said:

``Rural development policy must become more open and accessible. Post 2006 there will be a vastly reduced budget for rural development. Modulation money top sliced from the overall agriculture budgets will be the main source of money for rural development. While modulation will increase >from 3% to over 6%, Sinn Fein believe that this money must remain in the member state, and be match funded by the member state.

``In Europe we told Corrado Pirozi - Biroli that Rural development must be simplified and have local delivery mechanisms. Rural development must work for local people and by local people. The only way this will work is in adopting the LEADER model across Europe. This would take Rural Development away from the departments and reduce the money wasted in administration and mismanagement.''

``We urge both governments to fully engage with the commission during any mid term review of Structural Funds, so they are focused upon rural communities who are going to be impacted by the economic effects of the CAP proposals.''

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