24-10-2012 12:15 PM | Arable, Cereal, Crops, Finance, News

Commission must take heed of CAP reform warnings say NFU



Commission must take heed of CAP reform warnings say NFU
The directors of the EU Paying Agencies have highlighted 'significant risks' about the successful implementation of CAP reform to the Agricultural Council.

The agencies, the bodies responsible for the implementation of the CAP reform across the EU, cited a lack of time to specify and procure new IT systems, complexity of the requirements, unavailability of draft implementing acts, shortage of resources and uncertainty among farmers as contributing factors creating this risk.

The NFU have supported calls made by the Paying Agencies to simplify the policy and to delay the implementation of the new direct payments system, which will replace the current Single Farm Payment from January 1 2014.

"Farmers across the country remain aghast at the level of bureaucracy and complication that lies in these CAP reform proposals" said NFU senior CAP and international affairs adviser Gail Soutar.

"Uncertainty, particular with regards to the “greening” measures, possible changes to the entitlement rules and delays to the start of the next rural development programme, is causing a great deal of concern."

Earlier in the month, the farming groups warned that tight world food supplies mean that both UK and EU agricultural specialists should 'already' be planning a rise in self-sufficiency and establishing structures that avoid the risk of retail shortages.

Under the CAP greening proposals, farmers will need to grow at least three different crops and leave 7% of their land fallow - a policy that critics say could damage food production in the future.

"Setting aside more land for non-agricultural purposes when market signals clearly point to the danger of fully guaranteed food supply soon becoming a thing of the past" said Hamish McBean, National Beef Association chairman.

“We are not being alarmist but we are saying that EU and UK attitudes to food production are still being shaped by problems created by recent surplus and not by increased anticipation that sooner, rather than later, even rich western countries will need to work harder to ensure their populations can continue to anticipate there being a full range of food products for their plates."

But Gail Soutar said the Commission could 'help themselves' by publishing transitional rules, draft implementing regulations as soon as possible and find ways to simplify their policies.

"Take greening for example, the Commission is wedded to the idea of delivering “greening” through the Rural Land Register. What this means in effect is that farmers would have to measure, map and declare all of the features on their holdings that would count to these Ecological Focus Areas; including the area of hedges, ditches and buffer strips. The RPA estimates that three to four million new features would have to be defined on IACS maps and kept updated as the feature grows or changes shape.

"The NFU has challenged the Commission on the complexity of its proposals from the outset and despite a damning report from the Court of Auditors and now this report from the Paying Agencies, the Commission has shown little willingness to move from its original plans to introduce new compulsory measures in the CAP. It’s time that the Commission listened to those who will be most affected by the changes on the ground and come forward with more workable and fair solutions.”

MEP Stuart Agnew criticised the proposed reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy and said the EU 'has become far too big to have a CAP'.

The comments were made as part of a European Parliamentary press conference with fellow members of the Agricultural and Rural Development Committee in Brussels.

“We are looking at countries which have 350 horsepower tractors vs countries that have draft oxen" the MEP said.

Currently, financial problems plaguing the eurozone are stalling proposed changes to the Common Agricultural Policy. Until spending plans are agreed, MEPs are refusing to vote on the reforms.

There are fears in France that the new EU budget could cut the subsidies given to farmers. The Cypriot presidency of the European Union published a document saying "the total level of spending proposed by the Commission... will be revised downwards".

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