East Anglia: Farm competitiveness ‘must remain’ says regional landowners’ leader
A DEAL thrashed out out by European leaders in Brussels this week must not be used by the UK Government to make British farmers uncompetitive, a landowners’ group says.
Country Land and Business Association (CLA) East director Nicola Currie said the provisional deal on Common Agricultural Policy had taken on board some key issues and she was pleased the European Council recognised the impact of needless red tape and the value of agri-environment schemes.
A cap on big farm subsidy looks set to be voluntary across EU, and the overall farm subsidy budget will be squeezed.
“It does appear to pave the way for a fair deal for farmers,” said Mrs Currie.
“However, we would work with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to discourage the use of the flexibility allowed under this agreement to shift money away from supporting farmers or towards imposing stricter regulations.”
“The CLA particularly welcomes the statements that participation in agri-environment schemes should be treated as at least equivalent in doing good for the environment as the Commission’s own specific greening proposals and that the implementation of Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) would not require land to be taken out of production.”
She added: “It is also good that capping of payments has been made voluntary.”
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On the overall size of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget, Mrs Currie said: “In our view, this was not really about the total amount of money spent on the CAP. The CLA has always accepted that in the present climate agriculture has to take its share of cuts like every other sector.
“The key issue was to safeguard the competitiveness of UK farming. We cannot have a situation in which mainland European farmers have the benefit of significantly greater levels of support than their equivalents in the UK, or are subject to less onerous environmental standards.”