CAP reform ‘must be fair’

FARMERS’ leader Peter Kendall called for fair treatment for England as part of Europe’s reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as he addressed the region’s farmers on Thursday.

In the opening address to about 400 delegates at the Norfolk Farming Conference, the newly re-elected president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) insisted that reform had to be fair.

“The NFU was not going to defend the CAP’s budget at all costs. We’ve deliberately said that however the budget is decided across Europe, let’s make sure that we’re treated fairly in England and Wales and in the UK as a whole,” he added.

It was not politically realistic to argue that the agricultural budget must be maintained at a time when spending on schools, hospitals and the Armed Forces was under such pressure.

“This would be a pretty poor message. We can’t be saying that we must have this money otherwise we’ll all be going to hell in a handcart,” said Mr Kendall, who will now serve another two-year term after he was elected for a fourth term.

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“We know across government that they are massive cuts are to be made and if we end with 20 to 30% being made, we’ll have to take that on the cheek as long as everyone else gets it as well.”

Mr Kendall said Europe’s reform of the CAP was not about protecting the status quo.

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He said CAP must be as simple as possible, as common as possible, must maintain market focus and must not hinder competitiveness.

There was now growing recognition of farming’s importance with recent global summits on food production and security, he added.

Last month, for example, the first G20 Summit in Paris was held on food security.

“It came out with an action plan on food price volatility,” said Mr Kendall.

A report by the UN’s Secretary-general has said organisations should work to create a “new green revolution – an evergreen revolution” to help feed the world’s rapid-rising population.

He said the “language around our farming industry has moved a long way.”

It had been different when he had started as NFU president in 2006 and Margaret Beckett was environment secretary.

Mr Kendall said that it was “fantastic” to hear the science minister David Willetts talking enthusiastically about farming.

“I’m delighted that we have moved from the Margaret Beckett view of agriculture that it was not really needed. It is fantastic that the John Innes Centre is receiving significantly more resources for investment,” he said.

But Mr Kendall said that the NFU has challenged the government to do more with more practical policies.

There was still too much rhetoric and not enough real action to give the farming industry the confidence to invest.

“Where I find it slightly baffling is that the government says that it wants to help us to be more productive and more creative in our businesses,” he said. And at a time of drought, the government says that it wants more winter storage reservoirs.

Mr Kendall said that decisions by the Treasury to cut fiscal incentives were hardly an example of “joined-up” government. “When Gordon Brown four years ago removed agricultural building allowances, it was a rather crazy thing to do when the government want to scale up investment in agriculture,” he added.

And to discourage the building of farm reservoirs on farms was “absolutely crazy,” said Mr Kendall, who asked: “What sort of message does this send?

Mr Kendall was congratulated by Essex farmer, Guy Smith, who is chairman of the regional NFU board and presided at the conference. Mr Smith, who holds the Guinness Book of Records entry as the driest part of Britain on the family’s 1,400-acre farm near Clacton, said that Mr Kendall had secured 85 of a possible 86 votes.

He was delighted to introduce Mr Kendall as “one of the greatest and most popular and charismatic leaders of the farming industry has seen.”

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