EU farm ministers have agreed to drive a strong Common Agricultural Policy towards 2020; one that retains decoupled payments and is characterised by two distinct pillars.
NFU President Peter Kendall has backed the Presidency conclusions which said any ’greening’ of the CAP should be ’cost-effective, avoid duplication between the two pillars, and be based on current green policy measures’. However, he said it was disappointing that the UK Government had not been able to sign up to the EU paper.
"The conclusions drawn up by the Hungarian Presidency send a strong signal to the European Commission that it must avoid bureaucratic and overlapping measures that could be difficult for member states to implement or damage existing environmental stewardship schemes," said Mr Kendall.
"This is particularly relevant given that the Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos recently joined forces with the environment and climate change commissioners to write a letter to the EU Environment Ministers endorsing the need for compulsory greening measures applying to all farmers. This, I find extremely worrying.
"There is a very real fear that the Commission’s approach could damage our competitiveness, and, ironically, make farmers more reliant on support rather than less. Any compulsory greening of Pillar One could also compromise participation in existing voluntary schemes which aim to reward farmers’ work in protecting and enhancing the environment. This must be avoided and current stewardship schemes allowed to flourish."
The Presidency conclusions also defend decoupling and argue for greater market orientation and competitiveness. It also sets out a need for the CAP to improve supply chain functionality in order to enhance the farmers’ share of value-added products.
Mr Kendall said: "While we wouldn’t agree with everything, overall these are a balanced and useful set of conclusions that generally endorse the need for a strong common policy, one that builds on the success of previous reforms.
"I understand that the UK worked hard to improve the language on these conclusions so it is a pity that our Government was unable to sign up to them.
"There is a serious risk that if the UK isn’t seen to be part of the main body of opinion in the EU, UK interests may not be properly reflected in how the CAP reform progresses. It is really important that we have a government which is shaping reform negotiations in Brussels; one that is forming strong alliances with key member states," he said.