CAP convergence drive could be halted by Brexit
Current CAP may have to be rolled over to 2022 warn Brussels insiders
CAP convergence moves centre-stage for MEPs next week when members of the parliament’s powerful Agriculture Committee vote on the issue.
MEPs have a straight choice between 100pc or 75pc convergence in payments to the national average.
Proposals from Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan would limit convergence to 75pc of the national average – a position supported by the European People’s Party (EPP) to which Fine Gael is aligned.
However, a counter-proposal from the Greens and GUE/NGL – a left-leaning coalition – has called for full convergence to the national average during the lifetime of the next CAP.
Over the past five years convergence has resulted in the minimum CAP payment increasing to almost €160/ha or 60pc of the national average of €240/ha.
Full convergence would deliver an additional €70-75/ha (since the national average would reduce if such a policy were introduced), while 75pc convergence would be worth an extra €40/ha to the 20,000 farmers with low-value entitlements.
The policy is deeply divisive among farmers and farm organisations, with commercial farmers claiming that it diverts supports from full-time farmers to part-time operators. However, small and extensive operators generally support the move.
Brussels insiders fear that the convergence drive will be “stuck in gear” for the next two to three years because of differences over the CAP budget and policy delays associated with Brexit.
It is widely anticipated that the current CAP will have to be rolled over for up to two years and may not start until January 2022.
Meanwhile, details of the measures to be included in the proposed agri-environment element of the next CAP have still not been announced.
Under the commission’s proposals, the share of overall CAP payments targeted at ‘green’ measures will drop from 30pc to 20pc. The actions will also be optional.
However, the proposals stipulate that farmers who opt not to undertake the environmental measures will lose the 20pc of their direct payments which is earmarked for that purpose.