British government’s actions result in £millions less for Farmers here Anderson tells Agri-Food conference.

Addressing an Agri-Food Conference in Templepatrick this morning  Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson will accuse the British government of costing farmers here £millions because of the approach it took to the EU Budget negotiations.

Martina Anderson will tell the Conference that:

“The value of gross output from the agricultural industry in the north in 2012 alone was £1.7billion.

“The latest available information shows that in 2011 and 2012, the value of gross turnover from food and drinks processing industry was estimated to be approximately £4billion.

“To me this means jobs, and the agri-food sector accounts for approximately 6.2% of total employment in the north of Ireland today.  This is impressive, however we can build on it in the years ahead. But the sector is not without its challenges.

Touching on CAP reform and Rural Development Funding Ms Anderson said:

“CAP Reform Agreement was reached between Member States and representatives of the main political groupings of the European Parliament on the 26th June and finalised on the 24 September. Some further work on the legal text is taking place in Brussels and is not expected to be adopted by the EU council and the Parliament until the end of this year.

“The new system of Direct Payments is due to begin on the 1st January 2015 and the next Rural Development funding period will commence on 1 January 2014.

“Minister Michelle O Neill importantly secured regional flexibility for us to try and design a new CAP regime that will best suit our needs and assist the growth of our industry.  The options are currently out for consultation and early next year crucial decisions will have to be taken and I wish the Minister luck with all of that.

“Disappointingly the British Government supported by Unionist MPs and MEPs approach to the EU budget negotiations has meant that we will be working with a reduced budget. The budget for Direct Payments will be reduced by 2-3% in cash terms compared with the previous period which will amount to £millions less for farmers here.

“But it’s the rural development budget that will be reduced by much more – possibly up to £160 million less than current allocation, which will have a demoralising impact on rural areas which rely on RDF to modernize and plan for the future.

“But the publication of the ‘Going for Growth Report’ from the Agri-Food Strategy Board will provide the opportunity to shape EU programmes at the start of this next funding period, in a way that will help achieve its vision.

“We are well behind others, particularly the rest of Ireland, in drawing down the resources that are available from the EU. We need to lift our game if those opportunities are to be realised.”

Full Text of Ms Anderson’s speech

 

Agri-Food conference

Fáilte romhat go léir agus maidin an-mhaith

Good morning everyone, Chairman, Minister, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your kind invitation to address you this morning.

As an MEP I am very aware of the importance of the Agri-food sector to Ireland’s economy, both now and in years to come.

In many ways it is the backbone of our economy and we must work hard to ensure the viability of this industry is never undermined.

I sit on the Committee of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety in the European Parliament and I have been nominated as Shadow Rapporteur of a number of important areas such as the Food Crisis, Fraud in the Food chain and the control thereof, therefore I will be centrally involved in how the food chain is regulated in the future.

I will be working closely with the department to ensure that the regulations reflect the needs of our industry.

I have also been working closely with the Agriculture Minister and I meet regularly with EU commissioners to advance the needs of the north.

The value of gross output from the agricultural industry in the north alone in 2012 was £1.7billion.

The latest available information shows that in 2011 and 2012, the value of gross turnover from the food and drinks processing industry was estimated to be approximately £4billion.

To me this means jobs, with the agri-food sector accounting for approximately 6.2% of total employment in the north of Ireland today.  This is impressive, however we can build on it in the years ahead.

However the sector is not without its challenges.

This morning I have been asked to touch on three areas, CAP reform, milk quotas and country of origin labelling.

CAP Reform Agreement was reached between Member States and representatives of the main political groupings of the European Parliament on the 26th June 2013 and finalised on the 24 September 2013.

Some further work on the legal text is taking place in Brussels and not expected to be adopted by the EU council and the Parliament until the end of this year.

The new system of Direct Payments is due to begin on the 1st January 2015 and the next Rural Development funding period will commence on 1 January 2014.

Minister, Michelle O Neill importantly secured regional flexibility for us to try and design a new CAP regime that will best suit our needs and assist the growth of our industry.

The options are currently out for consultation and early next year crucial decisions will have to be taken and I wish the Minister luck with all of that.

Disappointingly the British Government supported by Unionist MPs and MEPs approach to the EU budget has meant that we will be working with a reduced budget.

The budget for Direct Payments will be reduced by 2-3% in cash terms compared with the previous period which amounts to £millions less for farmers here.

But it’s the rural development budget that will be reduced by much more – possibly up to £160 million less than current allocation, which will have a demoralising impact on rural areas which rely on Rural Development Funding to modernize and plan for the future.

We will have to make the most we can of the resources that we can draw down from Europe and I have confidence that the Minister will do her upmost for the rural community working within the limitations now at her disposal.

The publication of the ‘Going for Growth report’ from the Agri-Food Strategy Board will provide the opportunity to shape EU programmes at the start of this next funding period in a way that will help achieve the vision of ‘Going for Growth’.

Since being selected as SF MEP I have adopted a motto of‘bringing Europe to you and bringing you to Europe’ as without doubt there are opportunities in Europe that have not been fully realised in the north and we are well behind others, particularly the rest of Ireland, in drawing down the resources that are available from the EU.

We need to lift our game if those opportunities are to be realised and I am determined to play my part in doing that but both Government and industry must do likewise and I am pleased that there has been increasing interest in Research and Innovation funding streams such as Horizon 2020 by the Executive, Universities and Institutes like AFBI.

In terms of milk quotas, obviously we are aware that they are due to come to an end by 31st march 2015.

In the south of Ireland they have plans to increase their milk production by 50% by 2020.

An increase of this magnitude will, in addition to new markets, require additional processing capacity and may impact here given our substantial trade with the south but any limit on processing capacity will impact on the dairy industry right across Ireland and therefore we must plan to address this.

The abolition of milk quotas will increase the momentum towards a completely market-led industry.

With the changes in global markets and increased competition, the future sustainability of our dairy industry will be determined by its ability to respond to changed times, with a product mix in line with consumer expectations.

The dairy sector has the potential to grow further and to exploit opportunities arising from the predicted expansion in world population and ‘Going for Growth’ will shape that future growth.

Finally, in relation to country of origin labelling, particularly after the horsemeat scandal, it is clear that this issue needs to be progressed in Europe.

Our traceability systems ensured that Ireland emerged from that scandal relatively unscathed indeed, it could be argued, that the robustness of our traceability system ensured that our reputation, around the world, was enhanced.

I support the introduction of Country of Origin labelling and as contact person for our group for FVO I have already spoken to Commissioner Borg about its importance and have made the case that there needs to be modifications to cater for the unique situations pertaining in the north of Ireland.

To avoid any damage to the reputation of our food industry, should there be a problem detected on the island of Britain, the north of Ireland should be allowed a derogation from any ‘country of origin, regulations referring to ‘state’ or ‘country’.

This derogation would allow producers in the north of Ireland in keeping with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement – an international treaty – to choose Irish or British designation. With maximum cooperation between Assembly departments and Oireachtas counterparts, traceability of goods labelled ‘Irish’ would be relatively straight forward.

With modifications to cater for the unique situations as that presently pertaining in the north of Ireland, the introduction of mandatory country of origin labelling system would inject transparency and a higher degree of traceability which in turn would help restore consumer confidence.

The bigger picture is that these are exciting times for the agri-food sector. ‘Going for Growth’ is ambitious but we need to be ambitious if this sector is to reach its full potential.

I as an MEP will do all I can to assist this industry into the future and look forward to working with you all in the time ahead.

So enjoy the rest of your conference, thank you for your attention.

Go raibh maith agaibh