East Anglia: Farming groups attack CAP reform plans

FARMERS’ leaders in the region have raised fears about the effects of Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) reform proposals which include capping subsidies for larger farms and making some payments dependent on the amount of land set aside.

Regional representatives of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said aspects of the plans would particularly hit the eastern region, one of the UK’s foremost for agricultural production.

These include capping support at 1200 acres - a measure the CLA described as “highly discriminatory”.

The organisations also raised fears that mandatory ‘greening’ would “seriously disrupt” environmental schemes in the region by interfering “significantly in farming operations for many farms without obvious environmental gain”.

NFU senior policy adviser Rachel Carrington said the move could prove counterproductive.

“We remain convinced that the best way to encourage farmers to improve the environment is through targeted schemes such as environmental stewardship, which farmers have fully embraced in the East of England,” she said.

“Forcing them to take up to 7% of farmland out of production will hamper their competitiveness and this figure must be reduced.”

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The policy should help farmers to become more competitive and market orientated, she argued, but claimed the proposals would not achieve that.

“Capping of payments could have a major impact on some farm businesses in the region, which tend to be larger than the average farm in many other European countries,” she said.

In a joint statement the CLA and NFU said: “The commission says it wants “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth for European agriculture”. Both the CLA and NFU believe very few of the proposals will help meet those objectives and many of them will actually move farming in England and Wales in the opposite direction.”

The Government yesterday dismissed the proposals as a lost opportunity to cut costs and wean farmers off hefty subsidies. Big subsidies continue, although they will be capped at �260,000 a year. UK officials argue this will result in farming businesses being divided up, at least on paper.