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A series of intensive negotiations took place this week, in an effort to reach a final deal on the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

However, by Friday morning (May 27th), with no agreement reached, it was decided to postpone further discussions until June. A number of important elements are still to be agreed, including the targeting of direct payments (with issues such as redistributive payments and internal convergence still open and hugely concerning for Irish dairy farmers) and the structure of the CAP Eco-Schemes under Pillar 1.

MEPs and Agriculture Ministers have been strongly divided on the level of funding to ringfence for Eco Schemes, considering that the funding will in-effect be taken as a percentage of an individual farmer’s direct payment.

Developments in the negotiations this week indicate that under consideration is a new higher figure of 25% of direct payment funding per annum, being dedicated to Eco-Schemes throughout the 2023-2027 period.

In light of concerns by a number of countries on this significantly increased level of financing for these as of yet untested schemes, a number of flexibilities have been proposed, including to allow unspent funds above a “floor” of 18% to be transferred back to the direct payment envelope, and funds below the 18% floor to be re-applied to the schemes in subsequent years. These would appear to be sensible flexibilities but they were rejected by negotiators from the European Parliament and no new agreement could be found.

ICOS is highly concerned by this increased proposal in the Eco scheme budget, considering the hugely significant reallocation impact Eco-Schemes could have which would particularly impact commercial dairy farmers, and highlight the necessity of maintaining such flexibility, at a minimum at national level to redistribute unspent funding. This must be a critical priority for Minister McConalogue and Irish MEPs when talks resume.

In this context, ICOS wants to proactively contribute to the debate on the design of Eco-Schemes under Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan, which is currently under development.

We have set out proposals for Eco-Schemes for consideration by DAFM, accepting the requirements of the draft legislation relating to their design. Essentially, we have used three principles throughout when considering our proposals:

  • They must be simple in their design and operation;
  • They must be accessible to all farmers including dairy farmers;
  • The must deliver effective environmental improvement.

Bearing this in mind, ICOS has recommended the introduction of a range of Eco-Schemes contained in a report submitted to DAFM. The proposals by ICOS include “Productivity & Efficiency” Eco-Schemes, “Soil Fertility & Environmental” Eco-Schemes and “Biodiversity, Carbon Sequestration and Conservation” Eco-Schemes.

The ICOS submission on CAP Eco Schemes can be viewed here

By Alison Graham & Eamonn Farrell