The original Cork Declaration was made 20 years ago, from it developed the Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy and a realisation that Direct Payments to agriculture had to go beyond the production related payments that had existed up until then. The result in Ireland was the roll out of schemes like REPS, Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, AEOS, GLAS and TAMS etc. Twenty years on from that date it was felt that this original vision needed to be updated and that a new declaration was needed to guide the development of Rural development Policies in the years ahead.
It was for this reason that the EU Commission organised the Cork 2.0 conference on September 5th & 6th. Over 300 delegates from all 28 member states, from the EU Commission and with observers from China and the United States attended. The delegates included Farmers, Farmer Representative Organisations, Farm Advisors, Industry Representatives, Ministry of Agriculture Officals, Diplomats and Politicians. I was delighted to be asked to attend, I must stress that it is rare for me to be in such distinguished company.
A very significant number of delegates were from the UK and they made a considerable contribution, Brexit was hardly mentioned even by the UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew, although his opinions on addressing the causes of climate change as opposed to adapting to the impacts of Climate change did not engender much in the way of support. That aside the gathering was workmanlike, positive and productive.
It would be impossible for me to address all of the many issues that were discussed at the conference but some of the points that stood out for me include;
- The need to add value rather that just quantity to production systmens
- The need to reconnect the consumer particularly the urban consumer with the food producer,
- The value of the public goods produced by farmers, e.g. biodiversity, landscape resilience should be considered in the development of RDP policy.
- Financial Instruments to support RDP policy, particularly the use of loan guarantees and subsidised interest rates as a support mechanism for rural development is likely to grow considerably in the future.
- That overall funding in the future will be less, but that it should be better focused and that bottom up initiatives and results based programs are the way ahead. My reading of this is that capital schemes like TAMS could well be replaced with low interest loans and that catch all schemes like GLAS have had their day but we will wait and see.
My overall impression was positive but I believe the next CAP will be very different and that every one involved in agriculture or in rural development will have to adapt to a radical change in policy direction. There will be new opportunities and some of them may well be far better than those that currently exist but I would temper this with a warning that there will be losers as well as winners.
You can read the entire declaration by following the link below.