Agri Update

29th May, 2013
CAP UPDATE
The Minister Simon Coveney TD yesterday welcomed
the constructive and helpful contribution made by the European Parliament to the
ongoing efforts to achieve a political agreement on the reform of the CAP by the
end of June.
Speaking after the conclusion of the informal
meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers in Dublin, Minister Coveney
expressed his appreciation for the Parliament’s positive response to his
invitation to speak directly to Ministers. He noted in particular the value of
the Parliament’s participation in allowing all three institutions to have a
meaningful exchange of ideas and to better understand each other’s positions on
some of the key outstanding political issues. It also afforded the Council the
opportunity to reflect on these exchanges and to have its own follow-up
discussions on how the resolution of these political issues might be
pursued.
“Two very notable things happened at our
gathering over the last two days. For the first time, the European Parliament
engaged in direct discussions with Agriculture Ministers on important issues
that are of concern to us all. They did so in a very open and constructive way,
which I and my Member State colleagues warmly welcomed. And that in turn
facilitated a very useful and comprehensive Council debate, informed directly by
the points arising from the discussion with the Parliament.”
The discussion with the European
Parliament took place on Monday morning, when the Council was joined by the
Chairman of the Parliament’s Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development,
Paolo DeCastro, the Rapporteurs on each of the four CAP reform dossiers, and the
Co-ordinators from each of the Parliament’s political groups. Mr. DeCastro and
the Rapporteurs outlined their positions on key issues including internal
convergence of direct payments, coupled payments, sugar quotas, export refunds
and areas of natural constraint.
Ministers were then given an opportunity to state
their concerns and to exchange views with the Parliament in an attempt to
identify potential areas of common ground. Minister Coveney described this as a
very useful and informative exchange, conducted in a very positive atmosphere in
which it was clear that all three institutions remain firmly focused on
achieving agreement by the end of the Irish Presidency.
“The debate yesterday was very helpful. I am
particularly pleased that the Presidency’s unusual initiative in inviting the
European Parliament to direct informal discussions has paid some dividend. It
was clear that all three institutions acknowledge the fact that important
decisions need to be made in the very short term, and I think that the informal
exchanges with the Parliament in particular will prove to have been of
invaluable assistance as we move into what I hope will be the final few weeks of
negotiations.”
Today’s second day of the informal meeting
featured a more regular Council gathering, with Minister Coveney leading a
follow-up discussion that reflected on the outcome of yesterday’s exchanges. The
positions of each of the three institutions on the respective issues were
debated, and Minister Coveney sought Member States’ views on how the differences
between the institutions might be narrowed in the broader context of reaching a
satisfactory overall agreement. He again expressed himself very satisfied with
the exchanges, and undertook to reflect Member States’ views as the search for
an overall compromise approaches its conclusion.
“I have listened very carefully to Member
States’ views on the issues discussed over the last two days. These views will
inform the Presidency’s ongoing interaction with the Parliament and the
Commission as we try to reach an accommodation over the remaining trilogues and
the parallel political discussions in the coming weeks. Above all, these talks
have reinforced my confidence that I will be able to present a package of
measures to the Council at the end of June that will allow us to finalise an
overall political agreement within the timescale we set for ourselves at the
commencement of the Irish Presidency.”
Fodder update
The weather over past few months
has been unprecedented with a very cold spring which has led to this
extraordinary situation of a fodder shortage. 
This is an issue which Minister
Coveney and his Department have been dealing with for months now but clearly
at times the matter has
required further critical action.
There has been a significant issue
on all farms relating to grass supply and grazing conditions.  The most
significant problem in recent days has been wet grazing conditions and the
requirement to re-house animals following heavy rains, as land is unable to
carry stock on heavier wet soils.
Government is taking this issue
very seriously and a dedicated team is working on ensuring that farmers are
supported through this challenging time.
A number of actions have
been taken to support farmers during the fodder shortage: 
Transport Subsidy Scheme
  • The transport subsidy fodder scheme has helped to alleviate the difficulties
    being encountered by farmers and funding was doubled to €2 million.
  • This scheme has reduced the cost of imported fodder to farmers by
    approximately a third.
  • Deliveries through Co-Ops /marts  are now
    running at over 2,300 loads (the equivalent of  over 34,000 tonnes of fodder) up
    to the week-end.
  • The IFA is also sourcing 1,500 tonnes of hay
    from the Netherlands along with 3,400 tons in France.
  • Most Co-Ops have further significant deliveries
    planned for this week under the Transport Subsidy Scheme as deliveries ordered
    before last Friday 24 May and arriving this week are covered by the terms of the
    Scheme.
Emergency Animal welfare
System
  • While calls have reduced in recent days due to
    improved weather in some parts of the country, there have now been over 1,000
    calls. The majority of farmers are adequately supported through the transport
    subsidy scheme but over 330 farmers have received direct emergency financial
    assistance.
  • The majority of the rest of callers are being
    referred to Co-Ops in their respective areas regarding fodder supplies and
    availability.
  • The helpline will continue to operate to assist
    any farmer with animal welfare concerns, in need of support.
Farm Payments
  • To assist farmers under financial pressure, farm payments have been
    processed as quickly as possible. To date over 29,300 of the remaining 30,200
    REPS 4 participants have been paid a total of €167m in respect of the 2012
    application period. Almost €35m of this issued in 2013. A further €1m issued to
    REPS 4 farmers. Payments to the final 900 query cases are ongoing and are
    expected to be finalised shortly.
  • AEOS payments valued at over €3m have now issued. This brings the total paid
    under AEOS 1 and 2 to over €15m in 2013. Both AEOS 1 and 2 payments are
    continuing to issue in the as outstanding queries are resolved. AEOS 3 details
    have been announced today (see below)
Nitrates
Regulations
In recognition of the severe
difficulties being experienced by farmers due to a shortage of fodder and the
serious risk of a further shortage this Autumn/Winter,  Minister Coveney and
Minister Hogan have announced temporary and targeted adjustment of 2 provisions
of the Nitrates Regulations  to support additional fodder production on Irish
farms in the coming months.
The adjustments involve:
  • A discounting of some
    concentrate feeding when calculating the overall level of phosphorus allowed on
    grassland farms in 2013 and 2014; and
  • an extension of two weeks to the
    period during with chemical fertiliser can be applied
These measures will provide every opportunity to farmers to maximise
grass growth and conservation into next Autumn. 
Long-term
Issues
  • It is important that we broaden our focus from emergency provision of fodder
    on a short term basis to growing and conserving fodder for next winter’s needs.
  • It is important that we take every step to maximise production in the coming
    months and Teagasc has been asked to prioritise this in their advisory
    campaigns.
  • It is vital that fertiliser is applied to maximise production. The move by
    some Co-ops earlier this month to offer interest free terms for a period to
    encourage fertiliser usage is welcome.
Accessing the EU Solidarity
Fund: The EU Solidarity Fund,
is in the main, confined to major disasters
which have lasting repercussions on economic stability, living conditions and
the natural environment.  A natural disaster is considered as ‘major’ if it
results in damage on the State’s territory estimated either at over €3 billion
(2002 prices), or at more than 0.6 % of its gross national income.
Minister Coveney has explored this
possibility and it has been confirmed that the EU Solidarity fund, would
unfortunately not be available in our circumstances; a fodder crisis does not
fall within the field of application of the Fund as laid down; it has been
further clarified that compensation for private damage, including to businesses
and farmers is not eligible for Solidarity Fund Aid.
The EUSF only intervenes for
non-insurable public emergency operations ,such as repair of damaged public
infrastructure, costs of rescue services, emergency assistance to the
population, cleaning up operations etc.
The Scheme has to date provided
€2m in support to farmers by subsidising the cost of transporting imported
fodder into the country. Minister Coveney’s intention in providing a closing
date for the scheme was to ensure that significant supplies of fodder were
imported into the country this week to address the problems in specific areas of
the country, rather than a drip feed approach to importing fodder. However, it
is important to note that all fodder ordered before the 24 May and arriving this
week is covered under the scheme. The situation is being reviewed by Minister
Coveney and his Department on a daily basis however and will be monitored by the
Minister as the days progress. 
AEOS III
MINISTER COVENEY ANNOUNCES THE AWARD OF 6,000
AEOS 3 CONTRACTS
VALUED AT €20 MILLION
ANNUALLY
The Minister
for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD said today that he was
pleased to announce that approvals to 6,000 successful applicants under the
Agri-environmental Options Scheme (AEOS 3) are now issuing from the
Department
”.
Minister
Coveney said that despite the challenging budgetary position and the limited
resources available to his Department, he had decided to provide €20 million
annually under the scheme. The additional income provided under the Scheme, with
a maximum payment of €4,000 per annum, will provide a welcome boost to those
farmers operating to high environmental standards. AEOS is part-funded by
the EU under the Rural Development Programme, 2007-2013 and is a targeted
agri-environment scheme which specifically targets the three challenges of
halting biodiversity loss, contributing to the improvement of water quality and
combating climate change.  AEOS 3 will “build on the success of both the
Rural Environment Protection Scheme and both AEOS 1 and 2 in delivering an
annual income to farmers in return for farming to very high environmental
standards”
, said the Minister.
The
contracts will commence this month and will bring the number of Irish farmers
participating in agri-environmental schemes, i.e. the Rural Environment
Protection Scheme (REPS) and the existing AEOS 1&2, to 50,000. Under AEOS 3
strict selection criteria, as required by the European Commission and as set out
in the Terms & Conditions, were applied in choosing the successful
applications. Minister Coveney indicated that those farmers with commonage land
and designated Special Areas of Conservation or Special Protection Areas, who
will be required to follow a ‘Sustainable Management and Grazing Plan’, have
been given first access to the Scheme and will make up the majority of
participants. Others who have been successful include farmers who were
previously active in the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS), and as such
have a proven track record in the role of conservation and land management.
The Minister
reminded farmers that they “should not undertake any actions listed in their
application until approved for participation in the scheme as actions undertaken
or expense incurred prior to formal approval will not be eligible for
reimbursement”
. Finally, Minister Coveney added that while the contract
period will be for a period of five years and eight months, the terms and
conditions and payment rates for the new participants in the scheme will apply
until the end of 2013. At that stage, participants will have the option of
either terminating the contract without penalty or of opting to join whatever
scheme may be introduced in the new EU Financial Perspective programming
period.