European Commission Recommendations for Ireland’s CAP National Strategic Plan


The European Commission, European Parliament and EU Agricultural Council are currently engaged in the development of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) for 2023-2027. Trilogues between the three institutions occurred during the EU Council Presidency of Germany and will recommence under the Portuguese presidency in the new year. An agreement on the CAP is expected by the conclusion of the Portuguese presidency at the end of June 2021.

A critical element of this process is the National Strategic Plan to be submitted by each EU Member State. This National Strategic Plan covers the adoption of Pillar I and Pillar II measures into each member state’s agricultural support programme. Member states must deliver their National Strategic Plan to the European Commission by the end of December 2021.

In order to assist Member States in developing their individual National Strategic Plans, the European Commission has published its customised recommendations for Ireland in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Read the full report on the European Commission recommendations for Irelands CAP strategic plan.

Read IFA’s response to the publication of the report.

Summary of Report & Recommendations

Foster a smart, resilient and diversified agricultural sector ensuring food security

Value Chain

  • The report points out that Irish farmers’ share of the value-added food chain is significantly below the EU average and continues to decline. 
  • In Ireland the average agricultural income is approximately 39% of average income in the whole economy (2005 to 2019). 
  • While there was an increase in the total value-added of the food chain between 2012-2016, the Irish farmers’ share in the value chain declined from 20% in 2008 to roughly 18% in 2016. This is substantially below the EU average of 25%.
  • The report asserts that farmers must be supported to capture a higher value share in the value chain. 
  • Substantively, primary producers should receive assistance with the innovation and diversification of products and markets, investment in quality aspects, and the establishment and recognition of Producer Organisations (POs).


  • The report highlights the uncertainty in the sector caused by the threat of a disorderly Brexit which is exacerbated by our reliance on the UK as an export destination.

Access to Finance

  • In relation to credit, the report outlines that access to finance continues to be a significant issue for Irish farmers. 
  • The report estimates that an investment gap of up to €1bn exists in the agri-sector, especially among medium-sized farms and recommends new or improved access to finance.

Income Viability

  • The Commission recommends that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine should continue to pursue internal convergence and use the Complementary Redistributive Income Support for Sustainability (CRISS) to improve the viability of small-medium sized farmers and farms availing of funding under the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANCs).

Bolster environmental care and climate action and contribute to the environmental and climate-related objectives of the Union

Land Use 

  • There is recognition within the report that Ireland is home to the highest prevalence of grassland in the EU and a well-established network of biodiversity-rich hedgerows but also points out that the area covered by forests in Ireland is low compared to the EU average.
  • The report promotes the afforestation of mixed species and the integration of woodland into farm management as a means to increase Ireland’s biodiversity and carbon sink capacity.
  • The maintenance of extensive grazing, extension of species rich grasslands, adaption of mowing practices and prevention of burning of vegetation, through elements of conditionality, and where necessary funded schemes is recommended.
  • It is advised that resilience to climate risk is reinforced by addressing water stress on grassland and fodder crops by supporting partnerships between livestock and arable farms and the creation of fodder reserves.


  • The report is very positive in relation to Ireland’s soils. 
  • It counsels that Ireland’s mean soil organic carbon content is 127g/kg in soil across all land types in comparison to an average figure 47g/kg in the EU. 
  • Moreover, 82g/kg on Irish arable land is the highest in the EU. 
  • Finally, there is no evidence of significant pressure from erosion by water.


  • The proposed EU Methane Strategy is referenced in the report and encourages for improvement in the efficiency of enteric fermentation in farmed livestock through support for advice, innovation and management practices.
  • It also stressed that Ireland must reverse the trend of failing to meet its targets on reducing ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Water Quality

  • The report emphasises that overall nutrient management must improve in order to achieve the Green Deal objective on reducing nutrient losses and protecting water quality. 
  • The pilot Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) is praised with the report looking for this programme to be expanded. 
  • While water quality is deteriorating in certain areas as a result of nutrient discharges, the report acknowledges that the nitrogen surplus in Ireland is lower than EU average and that 98% of groundwater bodies are in good chemical and quantitative status.


  • It is recommended by the report that Ireland should halt the deterioration of Irish peatlands and encourage their restoration. 
  • It also highlights that this could potentially be achieved through funded schemes for carbon farming and more extensive grazing. 


  • The report acknowledges the significant growth in land being farmed organically over the past 10 years but points out that the area will need to further increase substantially if Ireland is to achieve its target under the new EU Farm to Fork Strategy.
  • Support for conversion to and maintenance of organic farming, and market development is endorsed.

Agri-environmental schemes

  • Ireland is encouraged in the report to transition towards more sustainable farming practices by enhancing the environmental and climate-related performance of income support – through appropriate standards and schemes, including support for carbon farming. 

Strengthen the socioeconomic fabric of rural areas and address societal concerns

Young Farmers

  • While Ireland’s young farmers are better trained than the EU average it shines a light on the struggle of generational renewal. 
  • Specifically, 44% of young farmers in Ireland have full agricultural training and further 20% have basic training which is double the EU average. 
  • On the other hand, only 6% of farm managers are young farmers. 
  • The report considers it imperative that new and improved access to finance is made available to incentivise generational renewal by reducing the barriers to succession and new entrants.


  • The report asserts that compared to other Member States, Ireland is well below the average level of antimicrobial agents sold. 
  • In 2018 the annual sales of antimicrobial agents for food producing animals was at 46mg/PCU in Ireland, which is well below the 2018 EU average of 118mg/PCU. 


  • It is highlighted that Ireland is on the right trend with regard to pesticide use.
  • According to ESTAT (European Statistics) calculations, the use and risk linked to pesticides reduced in Ireland by 31% in the 2011-2018 period compared to a 17% decline across the EU. 
  • Further reduction is pesticide use is recommended through sustainable farming practices.

Animal Welfare

  • The report recommends that efforts must be made to improve the viability of male dairy calves from the dairy herd and that consideration must be given to the continued tail docking of pigs.


  • There is strong encouragement of a shift towards healthier, more sustainable diets to tackle the incidence of obesity and non-communicable diseases while simultaneously decreasing the environmental impact of food systems.


  • Attention is paid to the bioeconomy and the report stresses that the bioeconomy must be developed by supporting renewable energy production and diversification into non-food areas.

Rural Development

  • It is submitted in the report that in the CAP for 2014-2020, Ireland allocated 4.9% of its rural development funding to knowledge transfer, advisory services, cooperation on the European Innovation Partnership (EIP), farm management and farm relief services compared to an EU-28 average of 3.6%.
  • The report advocates that in order to develop vibrant rural communities it is crucial to reduce geographic distances to basic services. 
  • Increasing accessibility to these services will augment social inclusion in rural areas.
  • The stark contrast in purchasing power between urban and rural dwellers in Ireland is also highlighted. 
  • The purchasing power of those living in urban areas is double the EU average while the purchasing power of rural dwellers is around or below the EU average.

Modernising the sector by fostering and sharing knowledge, innovation and digitalisation, and encouraging their uptake

Knowledge Transfer

  • Ireland’s Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) model is declared by the report as the envy of its peers across the EU and this model can be further enhanced to increase the competitiveness and sustainability of the sector.

Rural Broadband

  • The poor availability of rural broadband is clearly outlined with only 7% of rural areas having access to VHCN (Very High-Capacity Network) versus an EU average of 20%. 
  • It is put forward that this lack of availability could further exacerbate the digital divide between urban and rural dwellers in Ireland compared with other EU countries. 


Tadhg Buckley, IFA Director of Policy/Chief Economist: [email protected]

Liam MacHale, IFA Director of European Affairs: [email protected]

Denis Griffin, IFA Senior Policy Executive: [email protected]

Donal Sheehan, IFA Policy Executive: [email protected]

18th December 2020

Read the full report on the European Commission recommendations for Irelands CAP strategic plan.

Read IFA’s response to the publication of the report.