No more blank cheques – our taxes should benefit the public

Environmental Pillar meets Joint Oireachtas Committee to discuss Common Agricultural Policy reform
18 December 2012: The Environmental Pillar, a coalition of 26 national environmental groups, says that public money paid out under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) should be given for delivering ‘public goods’ – including a healthy natural environment– not given as ‘blank cheques’.
‘We want to ensure that CAP payments deliver more for small farm holdings and marginal farming communities which are most in need of support and where farming is particularly important for maintaining biodiversity,’ said Anja Murray, spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar.
‘Many of these farm holdings are facing abandonment. Continuation of farming depends on sufficient support through CAP, yet much of Ireland’s negotiations on CAP favour the most intensive farm producers,’ she continued.
Ms Murray and other Environmental Pillar representatives met the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Food, Agriculture and the Marine yesterday to discuss CAP reform.
EU Member States are in the process of negotiating proposed reforms to CAP. CAP allocates 40% of the EU budget for farm support. The Environmental Pillar is calling for this spending to incentivise and stimulate sustainable farming practices. The Environmental Pillar opposes proposals to cut parts of the CAP budget which deliver most for public goods. Instead, any cuts to CAP funding should come from payments which give little return to the taxpayer.
The Environmental Pillar is asking the government to use these recommendations as a basis for CAP negotiations, especially during the Irish EU Presidency beginning in January 2013.
The push for CAP reform is not limited to Ireland. ‘Citizens across the EU are demanding the CAP funding is reformed to deliver more ‘public goods’,’ said Ms Murray. ‘If CAP reforms don’t meet this demand we risk the future of CAP funding.’
Yesterday the Environmental Pillar  issued this briefing paper on CAP reform.
Further notes:
Details of the meeting
Representatives of the Environmental Pillar at the meeting with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Food, Agriculture and the Marine were:
– Anja Murray, BirdWatch Ireland
– Alex Copland, BirdWatch Ireland
– Cillian Lohan, Irish Natural Forestry Foundation
– Andrew St Ledger, Centre for Environmental Learning and Training
About the Common Agricultural Policy
The purpose of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding is to support farming, food security and rural environmental and social sustainability. Each year the Irish government distributes over 1 billion euro of CAP funds in Ireland.