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26 June 2013 11:48:56 |

NFU criticise Defra as UK votes on CAP reform


Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney

Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney

With a final deal yet to be struck, the UK has supported a mandate for the Irish Presidency to take the revised CAP proposals to Brussels to be passed by the full European Parliament.
The system that spends €4 billion of tax payers’ money each year to support the UK farming industry, has been under review in Luxembourg.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: "Negotiations between 27 agriculture ministers, the EU commission and the European Parliament were never going to be easy. We all have different ambitions for CAP reform and the Irish Presidency has had a really tough job trying to get a deal. Simon Coveney must be warmly congratulated for all his work so far.
"We want to get the best possible reform for our farmers, taxpayers and consumers whilst delivering a better outcome for the environment."
The NFU's governing body today criticised Defra ministers over their lack of engagement with farmers over plans for implementing the CAP in England.
The warning from NFU Council came following a resolution put forward by the South West region stating that Secretary of State Owen Paterson and Farming Minister David Heath had refused to listen to the concerns raised by farmers at shows around the country.
Crucial CAP reform negotiations are currently in their final, critical stages, with the European Parliament, Council of Ministers and EU Commission trying to reach a consensus.
NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond told NFU Council that English farmers are facing a bad deal under Defra’s plans.
“Our members’ feel that they have been let down over these negotiations through Defra ministers’ refusal to listen to them. That’s why NFU Council has sent such a strong message to the Secretary of State on CAP reform,” said Mr Raymond.
“Defra minsters’ plans are likely to include the maximum 15 per cent voluntary modulation. This on top of 10 per cent EU-wide modulation, future financial discipline cuts, which in 2013 will be five per cent and up to two per cent removed from direct payments for a mandatory young farmers scheme, could see English direct payments cut by ‘around 20 per cent under the reformed CAP.
“These cuts will further disadvantage English farmers against their EU counterparts, with the gap that already exists in payments levels set to get even wider.
“It is absolutely vital that we achieve the right deal and that Defra ministers then implement that deal fairly in England.”
In negotiations so far, the UK has succeeded in blocking a host of regressive proposals that would have meant a very bad deal for British farmers and tax payers.
In explaining why he rejected one of the four CAP regulations the Environment Secretary said: "Some Member States have been pressing to take CAP back to the dark days of butter mountains and wine lakes, with costly interventions in the market. I have resisted this every step of the way. That’s why Germany and the UK were unable to support one of the regulations which manages the EU food and agriculture market.
"All along I have rejected moves that would increase costs for hard pressed consumers. British shoppers should not have to pay twice for the CAP - once through their taxes and again at the supermarket tills."
The CLA urged Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to rethink his position on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) modulation after a reform deal was struck in Brussels.
CLA President Harry Cotterell welcomed the agreement between the European Agriculture Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament, saying the time was right for Paterson to reconsider his approach to the implementation of so-called voluntary modulation from Pillar One (direct payment to farmers and land managers) to Pillar Two (rural development schemes).
Cotterell said: "We are pleased that these three institutions have finally brokered a deal on CAP reform. It is clear we have won some valuable concessions for our members and UK farmers when you compare what has been agreed with the initial proposals.
"However, we are still concerned that Mr Paterson will put English farmers at a competitive disadvantage to our Continental neighbours by insisting on moving 15 percent of Pillar One funds into Pillar Two when other European governments will not be doing this."
The CLA President added: "We need to remember, of course, that we will not see the final legal text of the CAP reform deal until late this year, so there may still be some surprises to come. We will continue to lobby in the interests of farmers and land managers until the deal is set in stone."
In response to pressure from the UK, significant progress has been made to improve measures for the UK sugar industry, but not enough. Paterson said:
"Sugar beet quotas are bad for business and bad for consumers, driving up the wholesale price of sugar by 35% and adding 1% on our food bills. We have battled successfully and secured an agreement that beet quotas will end in 2017, despite the efforts of many to push this back to 2020. The case for better access to cane sugar is still being negotiated thanks to our efforts."
In accepting the other three regulations, the UK has been able to build on progress made back in March. There is now absolute clarity from the Commission that each of the four parts of the UK can implement CAP as they see fit.
The Environment Secretary said: "Farmers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can be reassured that their governments have the complete freedom to deliver a CAP tailored to their needs and circumstances.
"This successful outcome is a result of working as a united force with all Devolved Administrations and respecting regional farming priorities. I am pleased we have been able to agree changes needed for all four countries.
Further gains have been made to secure flexibility on greening measures to benefit the environment and UK farming.
"We fought hard to secure the freedom to green direct payments in a way that reflects our national circumstances. UK Governments can now transfer extra funds to their rural development budgets which represents the best use of public money whilst delivering the best environmental outcomes.
However there are disappointments. Despite the UK making good progress to decouple payments - the allocation of CAP subsidies linked to production - many Member States continue to make coupled payments at a high level. Mr Paterson said:
"It’s disappointing that the European Commission wants farmers’ dependency on subsidies to continue. Not only do they create market distortions, they are a poor use of tax payers’ money and discourage trading in a competitive open market. Member States, including the UK, will be allowed to pay up to 8% of their direct payment budget as coupled payments. Remaining Member States will be allowed up to 13%.
"I hope the negotiations will be completed today in Brussels, providing much needed certainty and clarity for farmers."
Scotland’s farmers should benefit from the new CAP which rewards activity, supports production and encourages greener choices.
The deal – which gives the EU Presidency a mandate to negotiate with the EU Parliament on Wednesday and agree a final package - should see new entrants benefit while slipper farmers lose out.
However, disappointment remains at the impact the reduced budget negotiated by the UK Government will have and the low rate they agreed to for coupled payments – which will see Scottish farmers lose out financially compared to farmers in other countries.
Speaking immediately after talks concluded in Luxembourg just after midnight Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “After almost two-years of hard fought negotiations the key principles agreed tonight should mean a better CAP policy for Scotland than the one we currently have, albeit like with all negotiations such as these we didn’t get everything we would have liked.
“One of the main achievements is the insertion of the ‘Scottish clause’ which means that new CAP should reward current activity – we will not be paying for what farmers were doing a decade ago and so-called slipper farmers will no longer benefit.
“This underlines the importance of CAP to support production, and the new deal is focussed on doing this in a green way, while maintaining employment and supporting our rural communities.
“The new greening of CAP takes into account that Scotland is already green with mixed farming creating diverse landscapes and should provide the intended environmental benefits, however the Commission must ensure that implementation decisions are sensible and do not place undue burdens on farmers or administrations or create unintended consequences.
“The deal should also bring relief for new entrants albeit they have got to wait until 2015 to feel the benefit. We successfully pushed for a National Reserve which will allow us to top up payment entitlements for recent new entrants and others with low historic value entitlements during the transition to full area-based payments and ensure future new entrants can access the system.
“The biggest disappointment – on top of the UK’s budget betrayal – is the two tier support for livestock and finding ourselves in the lower tier when Scotland is a livestock country. The importance of coupled to payments to Scotland’s farmers being consistently overlooked by the DEFRA Secretary of State was a huge frustration and one which will cost our industry dearly.
“There is still a lot of work to go to get the final deal ratified by the EU Parliament and then attention will turn to implementation. As we enter the next phase we will be working hard to choose options that are right for Scotland, to push the UK Government for a fair share of the UK’s CAP allocation for our farmers and to try to ensure the EU Commission serves up workable implementation rules.”
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