NFU director of policy calls for fairness ahead of EU CAP decision
NewsThursday 07 February 2013
The NFU this week called for fairness ahead of the EU’s meeting to decide on the amount of money assigned to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
A number of European leaders will meet in Brussels this week to attempt to reach a unanimous agreement on the EU’s long-term budget for the period of 2014 - 2200.
There will also be discussions regarding a number of policy concerns relating to the future of the CAP.
Speaking from a special meeting in Brussels organised by European farmers’ organisation COPA-COGECA, NFU director of policy Martin Haworth, said: “We have said all along that it would be unrealistic for us to expect the CAP to be exempt from the austerity measures that are being applied throughout the European Union.
“What is key to us is that whatever settlement is finally reached, the terms and conditions applied to our farmers must not put us at a disadvantage with our major competitors.
“Specifically we expect our government to treat English and Welsh farmers equitably and to ensure that they can operate on a level playing field with our main competitors in the rest of Europe.
“We are deeply concerned that the UK government continues to negotiate to have the powers to move up to 20 per cent of the money at national level from the UK’s direct payments envelope into its rural development envelope. This would hit our farmers far harder than any cuts that are applied fairly and equally across all European farmers.
“The NFU remains vehemently opposed to granting powers to cut payments at national level. At the very least we believe that there must be an obligation to match fund any transferred monies from within national exchequers. This is the case for the other sources of money to finance the rural development measures and any funds transferred from Pillar 1 should be treated in the same way.”
Previous versions of the ‘negotiating box’ have mentioned plans which aim to make capping voluntary for member states and to introduce flexibility around plans to ‘green’ the direct payments.
Mr Haworth continued by saying: “The NFU would prefer that capping was struck out entirely from the future CAP, but making it voluntary for member states would be an acceptable compromise.
"We interpret the negotiating text to mean that any suggestion of stepped reduction to larger payments, along with the overall ceiling at €300,000 as proposed, would become voluntary.
"We are absolutely opposed to payments being reduced in either of these ways and negotiators should ensure, at the very least, that both are left to the discretion of member states.
“Meanwhile, the centrepiece of this CAP reform remains the ‘greening’ of direct payments.
“If the budget is reduced, it’s only right that the conditions and costs imposed on farmers should also be reduced. We believe that if member states are given greater flexibility in implementing ‘greening’ that this flexibility should also be passed on to farmers.
“Giving farmers the choice in how to implement greening to suit their own situation is key to ensuring that greening is implemented in the most cost effective way at farm level and avoids the threat of individual countries using the ‘flexibility’ to gold plate the requirements.”