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Brexit: Consultation to begin on farm payments next year

By Business Reporters

The EU will start public consultations early next year on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with a paper on how to simplify and modernise it due before the end of 2017.

The timetable was confirmed by commission president Jean-Claude Juncker at a major agricultural conference in Brussels.

"There is no doubt that this policy should be maintained, at least its guiding principles," Mr Juncker said of the CAP.

"It must, of course, also be able to be adjusted or added to where we find faults."

The talks on a future CAP will run alongside talks on Brexit, which the EU said must wind up by October 2018 to allow time for the European and UK parliaments to vote on a deal.

Agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan said that "basic income support and an effective safety net will continue" under the new CAP.

However, he warned farmers that "the new CAP will have to have a higher level of environmental ambition" than before to help the bloc meet its more stringent climate targets.

The current CAP runs up to 2020, until the end of the bloc's long-term budget, and is worth around €56bn (£47bn) a year to farmers across the bloc. Northern Ireland is due to get around £2bn up until.

But by the time the current CAP runs out, the UK will have left the EU, leaving less money in the bloc's coffers. But there are several ideas being mooted about how to aid farmers under a new CAP.

A recent report by an independent task force suggested EU-level rules on unfair trading practices, including a ban on late payments to farmers, obligatory written contracts with suppliers and price reporting all along the food supply chain.

It also suggested channelling more EU subsidies into offsetting future risks, and said the European Investment Bank should do more to help farmers access loans.

MEPs are set to vote on a report by French deputy Angelique Delahaye, which is calling for similar measures, including EU-subsidised mutual funds and sector-specific price observatories.

EU farm ministers meeting today in Brussels were due to decide whether they want the EU to intervene on unfair trading practices. Ireland is in favour of EU-wide rules, but there are divisions among ministers. Many see the issue as a national competence, and 20 countries already have national rules in place.

"We, as a food producing nation, exporting 90% of what we produce, we would see a pan-European legislative framework as critical for us," Mr Creed said.

There are varying rules in place to protect farmers in 20 EU countries.

Meanwhile, new figures from IBEC in the Republic show that while the value of total goods exports were up by 4.6% in the first nine months of the year, turnover in the agri-food sector may be back €700m (£485m) this year.

The figures show that when the two high-tech sectors of pharma and electronic equipment are excluded, exports fell by over €800m (£670m) or 2.6% annually.

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