UK: DEFRA CAP plans ‘will damage English farming’, agricultural leaders claim
- Credit: Archant
A new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) negotiating position agreed late last night by the Agriculture Council will penalise English farmers and make it harder for them to produce food, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said today.
The NFU, speaking ahead of a final round of talks due to take place in Brussels today – where it is expected there will be a final agreement on future CAP rules – claimed the Government is set upon a road which goes against rising public support for British farmers as a result of the horsemeat scandal.
NFU president Peter Kendall said: “This year we have seen that the British public want to support British farmers and they want to buy British. Horsegate showed the importance of having thriving and sustainable domestic food production.
“But the Government is set upon a road which will penalise English farmers. Why would any government want to make it harder for its country to produce its own food while governments in the rest of Europe are doing the reverse?
“This round of CAP reform has been disappointing from the outset. Last night, ministers agreed that the future CAP will be less common, less market orientated, more complicated and will deliver nothing in terms of achieving a more level playing field.
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“But for the NFU, the greatest disappointment is that the biggest threats to English farmers lies ahead and that’s how our own Government will seek to implemented the new regime back here at home.
“For almost every element of the new CAP, there will be flexibilities for Defra (the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to select from. I just don’t understand why our Government is so intent on making it harder for British farmers to produce more British food – something consumers have clearly demanded in the wake of the recent horsegate scandal, and even at a time when Governments in the rest of Europe are doing the reverse. Defra Minsters fought hard for and have won powers to damage farming and domestic food production.
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“Defra can choose to cut English farmers payments by up to 15% on top of all of the other budget cuts we know are coming. They also have powers to opt out of the standard European rules on “greening” and implement a certification scheme which demands higher environmental standards of our farmers.
UK Government is alone in Europe by thinking that doggedly following the free market ideology of cutting payments and ratcheting up environmental standards will help our farmers compete and produce more food.
“The Prime Minister hit the nail on the head when he addressed NFU Conference during his time as the opposition leader. Back then his view was that ‘our government often imposes far more onerous standards on British agriculture than exist elsewhere in the EU’.
“This can have perverse consequences. Instead of driving standards up, they just drive farmers out of business. Our aim must surely be to take our EU partners with us wherever possible at first so we have a truly level playing field on which British farmers can compete.
“The upshot of last night’s agreement in Council is that the UK Government has failed “to take our EU partners” with us. But they have been granted the powers to go it alone. The question now is whether Mr Cameron’s Government will treat English farmers fairly or continue to subject them to the ‘we know best’ policy imposed on the industry by Margaret Beckett back in 2005.”