GMO decision-making and the potential impact of Brexit

The EU’s paralysis with respect to decision-making on genetically-modified crops was illustrated once again at last Friday’s (27 January 2017) meeting of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed when the committee failed to reach a qualified majority either for or against the renewal of the cultivation licence for the GM maize MON810 (currently the only GM crop licensed for cultivation in the EU) as well as on authorisations for cultivation of two other GM varieties ‘maize 1507’ and ‘Bt11’.

This is despite the fact that 19 Member States have excluded all or part of their territory from the cultivation of these three GMOs, pursuant to the provisions of Directive (EU) 2015/412 (the ‘cultivation opt-out’ directive).

Read the rest

Establishing the UK’s non-exempt limit on agricultural support after Brexit

One of the issues the UK must address in establishing its WTO schedule of commitments post-Brexit is the limit it will have on certain types of domestic support it can provide to its farmers. This limit will, in turn, have implications for the way in which the UK and its devolved administrations can design their post-Brexit agricultural policies, assuming that they might wish to continue to provide some support to their farmers.

Domestic support in the WTO is measured as an Aggregate Measurement of Support, or AMS. Countries which provided non-exempt domestic support in the base period (1986-88) for commitments under the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) entered a Total AMS commitment in Part IV of their WTO schedules of commitments (their Bound Total AMS or BTAMS).

Read the rest

Brexit and Irish agri-food trade

I am preparing to give evidence to the Irish Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on Tuesday 17 January on how Brexit might impact on the Irish agri-food sector. Ireland is the EU Member State with the most to lose from Brexit, and the Irish agri-food sector is the most vulnerable economic sector because of its high dependence on the UK as an export market. More than 80 per cent of Ireland’s key beef and dairy production is exported. Although there has been some diversification away from the UK over the past decade, it still takes 43% of all Irish agri-food exports.

Read the rest

Why further reform of the CAP is needed now

Yesterday I took part in a meeting at the European Parliament under the heading “CAP – Out of the box thinking‘ jointly organised by the RISE Foundation and the European Landowners’ Association. The event was part of the preparation for a report by the RISE Foundation under the leadership of Professor Allan Buckwell aiming to provide ideas for the CAP post 2020. My contribution was to argue that further reform of the CAP is needed now. Below is a slightly edited transcript of my remarks.

Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy has been ongoing since the seminal McSharry reforms in 1992.

Read the rest

Designating new Areas with Natural Constraints

One of the longer-running sagas in EU agricultural policy-making is now entering the end game. I refer to the redesignation of certain less favoured areas (now called Areas with Natural Constraints) for the purpose of determining eligibility for ANC payments under the CAP. After much foot-dragging, it was agreed in the 2013 CAP reform that updated designation criteria would be used for ANC schemes in the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programmes, but Member States were given leeway to delay their introduction until 2018.

Presentations by DG AGRI officials at two recent workshops on the new ANC criteria, one organised by the European Network for Rural Development in October last year, and the other organised by COPA-COGECA in November last year, provide an overview of the state of play.

Read the rest