Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has welcomed the constructive dialogue on CAP reform and beef mislabelling at yesterday’s EU Agriculture Council meeting in Brussels.
The Minister said: “Before the Council meeting, I had a very useful discussion with Ministers from England, Scotland and Wales on our CAP reform priorities as the negotiations now move into top gear. This wide-ranging meeting covered issues such as the need to secure maximum regional flexibility on the CAP implementation options, how best to direct support towards active farmers, the scale and scope of any coupled support and support for young farmers, and the future designation of areas of natural constraint. In preparation for the Council debate, we also addressed the rate of transition of decoupled support towards a flat rate payment regime and the issue of transparency in how CAP payments are allocated to individual beneficiaries.”
The Minister added: “The Council debate itself was constructive and marked a further step towards an overall agreement. The most important item discussed as far as our local industry is concerned was the proposal around transition towards a flat rate support regime. While there was no overall agreement on the level of convergence to be achieved by 2019, I heard no objections to the proposal that the initial 40% step jump towards a flat rate payment in the first year of the new regime should be reduced to 10%. I think that is very encouraging and very much in line with what I have been seeking on this key issue.”
The Council also had a comprehensive exchange of views on the beef mislabelling issue. The Minister said: “This is a serious matter for both consumers, who have been deceived, and for legitimate businesses, who have suffered as a result of fraudulent behaviour.
“The EU Commission’s contribution towards the cost of testing is welcome and I hope that any costs incurred by the industry will be borne at the appropriate point in the food chain so as not to adversely impact farmers. I welcome the agreement of the Commission to extend the period of testing and associated financial support to deal with the situation.
“I also welcome the agreement of the Commission to accelerate the delivery of its report on origin labelling of meat in processed products. It is important that this report is supported by a full and proper impact assessment which will allow the cost and practicality of any extension to the existing origin labelling controls to be fully considered. I would also want to ensure that issues around the selection of geographical units and how their use of products may impact on trade are fully explored before any subsequent decisions are made.
“I very much support the coordinated effort by all Member States on intelligence gathering, information sharing and enforcement which will help restore consumer confidence in the food supply chain.
“I must also emphasise again the robust traceability and quality controls in place for locally produced meat. This includes the Farm Quality Assurance Scheme, an independent quality assurance scheme run by the Livestock and Meat Commission. It focuses on animal traceability, food safety, animal welfare and care for the environment. Beef and lamb bearing the Farm Quality Assurance logo is guaranteed to be from an independently inspected and certifiedfarm and consumers can be confident in its quality.”