Making BALE fit the CAP

Jeanette Dennis, a solicitor in the agriculture department at Ashton Graham, looks at how farm diversification fits in with EU policy review

BALE stands for Best Alternative Land Enterprise award and is aimed at the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire.

But why is diversification by farmers so important? And how does this fit in to the imminent Common Agricultural Policy ( CAP) review? Diversification has become a key area within the CAP, and its objects support diversification in rural development. The CAP is divided into two “pillars”: production support and rural development, the latter including diversification.

We are now approaching the review of the CAP, which is due at the end of 2012, and the proposals are possibly to increase support for non-farming activities.

The EU commissioner for Agricultural and Rural Development, Dacian Ciolo?, said in July that he would like the new CAP to be “… fit to address seven major challenges: food production, globalisation, the environment, economic issues, a territorial approach, diversity and simplification”.

For these reasons, the future of diversification in agriculture of this region is key. All the signs are that diversification will become more and more important, particularly with genuinely “green” concepts. The current rural development policy of the EU is focused on three “thematic axes”. These include improving the quality of life in rural areas, and encouraging diversification of the rural economy.

Reform could include the protection of the environment, conservation of the countryside, sustaining rural economies and preserving/creating rural jobs, and also mitigating climate change.

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This is excellent news for farmers in the region, if it can be delivered. It may mean more CAP money for non-agricultural activities. The lobbying will be intense, and no one should assume that there are any “done deals”. It could, equally, herald greater uncertainty for rural businesses relying on CAP support.

What is clear, however, is that if farmers can move away from direct support from the CAP, through diversification, that must make sense for the future survival of their business. And it will be a bonus if they do get some CAP support.

In conclusion, the purpose of the BALE award is to encourage, reward and celebrate diversification in the region. Its importance will increase, with the increase of uncertainties under the CAP, and we will no doubt see further CAP changes after 2013.

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. You should not act or rely upon this information.