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Bertie O'Leary, ICOS President
Bertie O'Leary, ICOS President

“We are delighted that our concerted campaign to delete proposals for dairy quotas by the back door has been successful, but difficult issues remain for co-operative based Irish Agri-business in a hard fought reform of the CAP.” – Bertie O’Leary.

The President of the Irish co-operative movement ICOS (Irish Co-operative Organisation Society Ltd) – Bertie O’Leary speaking today in advance of the final trilouges on CAP in the European Parliament in Brussels said there were positives and negatives for Irish co-operatives to take from the revised mandate agreed by Council Ministers in Luxembourg last night (Tuesday).

O’Leary stated that, ‘ICOS policy on CAP was to focus on the neglected single common market rule aspects of the deal with issues that are vital for Irish co-operative agribusiness plans for growth both domestically and on key export markets.

To this end we made great efforts to block proposals on dairy supply management proposals in Article 156a. We also focused on improving the ‘tool box’ to help our industry combat market volatility, such as Private storage Aid rules, Intervention rules and Risk Management.’

‘Milk remains an outstanding issue in the final hours of the CAP, with the European Parliament looking for powers over the rates of intervention, which we will feel will politicise a vital tool which should be handled by technical experts at member state level.’

‘ICOS welcomes strict rules on the formation and protection of producer organisations (POs) that hopefully will protect the co-operative model that has been at the heart of farmer controlled Irish Agri-business for over a century.’

A high level conference on milk is proposed in Brussels for September 24th of this year.

On internal convergence, O’Leary said that the ICOS policy has always been to ‘reward the active co-op member, who produces most for, and purchases the most off their co-operative.’

ICOS has long supported the Ministers approximation approach, but O’Leary said that the agreed 60% minimum payment figure ‘will cause problems, with €103 million euro being transferred off some of our most productive producers’.

O’Leary acknowledged that the Minister was faced with a Commission proposal that up to recently was looking for a minimum payment of 75% of the average per hectare payment, which would have been ‘disastrous for productive agri-business in Ireland’. O’Leary welcomed the compulsory top-up payment for young farmers in pillar I saying that ‘the future of the co-operative movement is dependent on young farmers regenerating our membership and our board structures. We had supported our colleagues in Macra in calling for this since the outset of negotiations.’

On Greening, O’Leary said that ICOS policy was always to concentrate on making it a win-win payment for co-operative farmers. To that end the organisation pushed for ‘grassland maintenance’ to be at the heart of the proposal. We also are happy that proposals for ecological focus areas and crop rotation will be workable in the future for Irish agriculture.

‘What I do fear though as that the whole greening principle will be a trojan horse that will be used to put unbearable burdens on productive agri-business in the next reform.’

On Pillar II payments, O’Leary underlined how vital they were to underpin farm family incomes in many areas. He hoped that new Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) and Agri-Environmental schemes that will be designed by the Department of Agriculture in the aftermath of this reform, will be fully co-financed and be targeted at sectors with most need.

Within rural development proposals he welcomed the inclusion of the ‘Co-operation’ Article 36, which he hoped could promote a new wave of rural co-operatives in Ireland.

In conclusion O’Leary stated; ‘As one of the few organisations that has a permanent presence in Brussels during the course of the CAP reform, we have been at the heart of detailed and complex negotiations since the beginning of this process.’

ICOS hopes to meet Commissioner Ciolos on Thursday for further clarification of the detail of proposals in Brussels when he is scheduled to meet key European farming and co-operative leaders.

ICOS  represents co-operatives and organisation’s in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts – whose associated businesses have a combined turnover in the region of €13 billion, with some 150,000 individual members, employing 12,000 people in Ireland, and a further 24,000 people overseas. Wednesday, 26th June 2013