Fionnán Sheahan: Next Ag minister will face challenging round of CAP reform

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On the plus side, rural Ireland and the farming sector won’t get a patronising lecture about how singularly important it is to the post-coronavirus recovery.

The agri-food sector was hailed as a leader of the comeback from the economic crash a decade ago, but eaten bread was soon forgotten.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar outlined last week how the global recession means an export-led recovery driven by agri-food, tourism and multi-nationals like 10 years ago is unlikely.

On the minus side, this means agriculture won’t get a more prominent place at the top table.

The next Agriculture Minister will face the challenging task of representing Ireland through the next round of CAP reform as the climate change agenda becomes central to everything.

The coronavirus crisis, added to Brexit, has thrown into doubt when CAP precisely reform will kick in, with 2023 now most likely.

Assuming Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party come together to form a government some time this summer, ‘caretaker’ Agriculture Minister Michael Creed is on the way out.

There’ll be an argument to have a Fianna Fáil minister in charge. The best hope would be a heavy hitter like Dara Calleary or Barry Cowen.

Unfortunately, Agriculture is no longer viewed as a prime portfolio.

The agriculture portfolio has been held for the best part of a decade by the Fine Gael dynasties from the traditional big farm background.

The narrow mindset was dramatically exposed by comments from both Creed and his predecessor, Tánaiste Simon Coveney, about the negotiations with the Greens.

Coveney portrayed Fine Gael as the saviour of rural Ireland, who wouldn’t allow the dastardly Greens to bring in a programme for government that “decimates rural Ireland”.

It’s not clear if he meant Fine Gael want to keep that title of decimators of rural Ireland to themselves. Presumably not.

Creed followed up stating the blindingly obvious: some of the policies being pursued by the Green Party would be “particularly problematic”. Poking the Greens with a stick, he also suggested the Greens’ red line of reducing carbon emissions by 7pc a year is being pursued for “political expediency”.

Playing to their own base is their only priority.

Neither of the Fine Gael old guard had anything constructive to add to the debate.

The portrayal of the Greens as the bogeymen misses the point.

The political climate is shifting inexorably towards introducing policies which address climate change.

And if the ideas for those measures don’t come from this country, it’s certainly coming from Brussels.

Just look at what’s happening in the UK. Following Brexit, EU farming subsidies are to be replaced by funds linked to efforts to combat climate change.

Farming is the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s obvious a major contribution is coming one way or another. The debate shouldn’t be reduced to a juvenile argument about culling the national herd.

The challenge will be to come up with alternatives that are economically and environmentally sustainable.

Agriculture can’t afford a political climate change denier in charge for the next five years.

Indo Farming

Source: Irish News