NFU Conference: Demands For Fair and Simple CAP Reforms28 February 2013
EU – Fairness and simplicity must be primary goals of current Common Agricultural Policy budgetary reforms, said NFU President, Peter Kendall, addressing the National Farmers Union Conference at the ICC in Birmingham yesterday, writes Michael Priestley TheCattleSite editor.
European Commission budget reforms currently entail reducing direct payments from Pillar one and moving funding into Pillar two for rural development and environmental stewardship.
This process, referred to as modulation, is part of budget tightening as the EU faces hard economic times,.
Speaking ahead of today’s CAP session, Mr Kendall stated that all farmers share one thing in common- a hatred of modulation, referring to direct payment cuts as ‘intolerable’.
“Defra has negotiated the right to cut English farmers’ payments by up to 15 per cent,” said Mr Kendall. “We know that some other countries are planning to transfer 25 per cent in the other direction.”
Mr Kendall posed the question of modulation to Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs who also spoke at the conference.
“It’s not even as if modulation is going to fund smart, small scale targeted environmental schemes across the whole country,” added Mr Kendall. “I’m concerned that is goes to fund grand schemes, ending up taking swathes of land out of production.”
Also of concern are Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) - one of the three key themes of Greening complementing permanent pasture and crop rotation.
Mr Kendall reiterated his point by quoting EU heads of government saying: “EFAs should be implemented in ways that do not require the land in question to be taken out of production.”
The NFU is concerned that a complicated CAP system will limit farm production and sustainability, undoing the good work of farmers as stewards of the countryside. Mr Kendall urged that simplicity isthe key to policy success.
In response to fears about budgetary cuts, Mr Paterson made it clear in his speech to the conference that he wanted to progress into efficiency and technology and move away from direct funding.
“I believe CAP reform negotiations should have a major positive impact on the competitiveness of the UK farming sector. I’m pushing my colleagues to keep reform moving in the right direction, following the path set by MacSharry and Fischler.”
The overall CAP budget costs around €52 billion a year, Mr Paterson revealed, adding that this money needs to be spent effectively.
By funding improving biodiversity, landscape character and investments future technology, Mr Paterson stated that this is how tax payers’ money can be best put to use.
Mr Paterson clearly denounced direct, coupled payments but was hugely in favour of farmers being paid to do environmental management work which does not receive reward through any rigid market mechanism.