MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE FOR AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT
FRIDAY 4 OCTOBER 2002
HELD IN ROOM A1, LOUGHRY COLLEGE, COOKSTOWN
Present: Dr IRK Paisley MP MEP (Chairman)
Mr G Savage (Deputy Chairman)
Mr B Armstrong
Mr PJ Bradley
Mr J Dallat
Mr B Douglas
Mr G Kane
Mr G McHugh
Mr I Paisley, Jnr
Apologies: Mr P Doherty
Mr D Ford
In attendance: Mrs C White (Committee Clerk)
Miss J Adair (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Dr Kevin Pelan (Assembly Researcher)
The Chairman declared the meeting open in private session at 11.30 a.m.
1. Consideration of proposed changes to the Common Agricultural Policy
1.1 The Chairman and members discussed EC proposals for changes to the Common Agricultural Policy presented in a speech by Mr David Roberts, Special Adviser to Commissioner Fischler, during the morning session of the First Annual Conference of the Rural Stakeholders Forum. The proposals included the decoupling of support to farmers from production and linking it with the achievement of environment and animal welfare related objectives, the introduction of a 'second pillar' of new food safety and rural development measures and the partial move away from direct payments to producers to funding of the second pillar.
1.2 Members expressed the view that the proposals were primarily designed to deal with the forthcoming expansion of the European Union to 25 members states without accordingly increasing the agricultural budget and, if introduced, would have grave implications for the agricultural industry in Northern Ireland.
Resolved: The Committee agreed to discuss their concerns with Mr Roberts and to send a delegation to present the Committee's concerns in Brussels during week commencing 14 October 2002.
2. Meeting with the Special Adviser to Commissioner Fischler
2.1 The Chairman welcomed Mr David Roberts, Special Adviser to Commissioner Fischler and Ms Sarah Jane Smith to the meeting at 11.55 a.m. He advised Mr Roberts that the Committee intended to visit Brussels to present a paper on members' concerns and to answer the three questions raised during Mr Roberts speech regarding the continuation of current levels of support to the farming community, the industry's ability to meet market demands if support continued to be linked to production patterns and the justification for maintaining 'trade distorting' support. Mr Roberts agreed to confirm the possibility of a meeting with Commissioner Fischler and EC officials.
Resolved: That the Committee Office would liaise with Mr Roberts regarding the arrangements for a meeting in Brussels.
2.2 A question and answer session with members followed. Key issues included the unique situation of the Northern Ireland agricultural industry, the need to ensure non-EC farmers are not subsidised by other means if de-coupling was to be taken on a worldwide basis, the need for payments to be index-linked and which reference year will be used to identify level of de-coupled payments.
Resolved: That the Committee would hear oral evidence from the Ulster Farmers' Union and the NI Agricultural Producers Association at its meeting in the afternoon and that the meeting should start at 1.30 p.m. The Committee would seek written submissions on the organisations' views on the EC proposals for consideration at the Committee meeting on 11 October.
Resolved: That the Assembly Research and Library Services would provide a briefing paper for consideration and that the Committee would agree a response to the proposals at the meeting on 11 October.
3. Date of Next Meeting
3.1. Resolved: That the next meeting will take place on Friday 4 October 2002 in the Board Room, Loughry College at 1.30 a.m. to hear evidence from the Ulster Farmers Union and NI Agricultural Producers Association.
The Chairman brought the meeting to a close at 12.18 p.m.
Dr IRK Paisley