UK: Farm coalition’s deep concern over CAP

Britain's Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson, right, talks wit

Britain's Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson, right, talks with Portugal's counterpart Assuncao Cristasl at the EU Council in Brussels - Credit: AP

A coalition of 33 farming groups has expressed concerns over UK Government policy on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform.

Europe’s leaders thrashed out an over-arching deal on CAP last month, but the detail is being finalised back home.

Farmers’ leaders say they are concerned about new environmental conditions which will be placed on farmers and “deeply concerned” about the possibility the UK Government will cut unilaterally English farm payments by up to 15%.

The CAP coalition, led by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and the Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA), met at the Great Yorkshire Show this week to reinforce its message to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said: “I cannot stress strongly enough the feeling of frustration amongst farmers to hear on the one hand, the Government’s backing for British food production, but its determination to disadvantage and undermine English farmers resilience compared to our European competitors on the other hand. Mr Paterson wants us to focus on making the sector more efficient and productive than its global rivals. I just don’t see how cutting English farmers’ payments and channelling more money to environmental schemes that take land out of production and increase costs will do that.

CLA deputy president Henry Robinson said the Government had failed to explain to farmers and land-managers what it intends to use this money for.

“We believe that it is wrong to start from the premise that the maximum amount of money must be transferred from pillar one to pillar two. What is required is a quantifiable analysis that establishes how any transferred funds will impact on English farmers,” he said. But George Dunn, chief executive of the TFA, said they were reassured DEFRA ministers have listened to concerns about potential gold plating of future “greening” rules.

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“We pledge publicly to work with Owen Paterson and his team to deliver a simple, credible system which implements the new EU requirements in a way that works,” he said.

The coalition called on the Government to set out its priorities for rural development.

Mr Raymond added: “We need to strike the right balance on rural development objectives and the sector’s resilience and competitiveness. DEFRA has the flexibility to set the modulation rate initially to less than the maximum 15%. There would then be the option of reviewing the rate upwards in 2017, if a further analysis demonstrates it be necessary.”.

The coalition said the industry remained “deeply concerned” about Mr Paterson’s determination to increase the voluntary modulation rate, already the highest level in Europe, even further to a maximum of 15%.