Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Brussels ‘missed opportunity’ on CAP reform – Spelman

October 23, 2011 by  
Filed under News & Business

BRUSSELS has completely missed the opportunity to wean agriculture off subsidies, DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman has warned.

Speaking after a meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg, Mrs Spelman pledged to “fight for a better deal” for the UK. European Commission proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy did not do far enough, she suggested.

“With the demand for food rising and prices rocketing, the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy is a chance to wean agriculture off subsidies and encourage farmers to produce more food at less cost to the environment.

“That’s what should happen, but the Commission’s proposed reforms have completely missed that opportunity.”

Proposals to “green” the CAP by introducing more environmental measures were not ambitious enough and failed to recognise the length UK farmers went to protect the environment while producing food, said Mrs Spelman.

“I’m going to work hard to improve these proposals to get a better deal for UK farmers, consumers, taxpayers and the environment.

“Already the commissioner has conceded countries like ours with good stewardship schemes should not be penalised with extra set-aside.

“The next seven-year period should help EU farmers respond to the huge challenges the Commissioner correctly identified last year of food security and climate change – in essence, producing more food at less cost to the environment.

Reform of the system of direct payments was like embarking on a journey where farming progressively moved away from support in the context of rising world food prices, said Mrs Spelman.

“Whilst we remain convinced that the best way to help the environment is by targeted measures, the current proposals need much more work before they can be accepted.

“At the moment, they risk either simply rewarding farmers for normal good practice or, worse, preventing them from making the right decisions for sustainability.”

Mrs Spelman criticised proposals that would force arable farmers to maintain what Brussels has described as “balanced” rotations.

“The proposals on crop rotation are too bureaucratic and unworkable for some types of farming,” she said. “It would be better to tailor these decisions locally and to make them multi-annual.”

Commission proposals requiring farmers to ensure 7% of farmland was placed into an “ecological focus area” was like set aside and could bring environmental benefits if correctly managed.

But member states needed much more flexibility and recognition for the efforts their farmers had already made to protect hedgerows, woods and field margins.

“Simply taking 7 % of land out of production at a time of increasing demand for food is not sensible.”

On plans to limit direct subsidies to €300,000 per farm, Mrs Spelman said she opposed capping because it would lead to the fragmentation of farms which reduced their competitiveness and market orientation.

“A direct payment system needs to be allocated fairly on the basis of the land being managed.”

Mrs Spelman said England would work closely with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to ensure the UK was not disadvantaged by a reformed CAP deal.

UK farming had different characteristics to agriculture in much of Europe, with larger farms and farmers making greater efforts to protect the environment while producing food, she said.

“Overall we all need a better deal from the CAP, and I’m determined to get one.”

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