MEPs urged to overturn direct payment reform

NFU leaders have met with MEPs in Strasbourg for discussions about CAP reform amid concerns demands by the UK Government would reduce some direct payments to farmers.

Peter Kendall, NFU president
Peter Kendall, NFU president

NFU leaders have met with MEPs in Strasbourg for discussions about CAP reform amid concerns demands by the UK Government would reduce some direct payments to farmers.

It is feared such a move would put British farmers at a disadvantage to their counterparts on the Continent.

NFU president Peter Kendall, deputy president Meurig Raymond and senior CAP advisor Gail Soutar took part in two days of talks at the European Parliament on the issue.

Mr Kendall said it was vital that MEPs understood the CAP must be common in name and common in nature.

“As long as British farmers compete within the European single market, it is important that we remain part of a common policy framework for agriculture,” he said.

“But we are deeply concerned over UK Government attempts to insert a tool into the reform package which would remove 20% of farmers’ direct payments and push it into rural development funds.

“There would be few, if any, other member states that would make use of that tool, leaving UK farmers at a severe disadvantage.

“Current direct support levels in England and Wales are already below those of our main competitors in countries such as France, Ireland, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands and this position must not be made worse.

“We are urging MEPs to overturn this measure.”

The NFU team also lobbied MEPs on cash for rural development schemes, calling for more to be diverted to the UK.

Currently, the UK receives the lowest per hectare allocation of pillar two funds of all member states, a situation that Mr Kendall said was “unacceptable”.

And he pointed out that a rethink would become necessary if the CAP budget is reduced.

“The Commission’s proposals will have to be significantly amended,” said Mr Kendall.

“If the budget is reduced, it’s only right that the conditions and costs imposed on farmers should also be reduced. We need a reality check on what we demand from farmers.

“We need to help them become more competitive, not force them to be more inefficient.”

The NFU said that it is now likely that the start of the next CAP will be delayed beyond 2014 and it is essential that transitional arrangements are organised so that farmers can make informed decisions about the direction of their business. It is also calling for sufficient time to be given for the new policy to be implemented after being agreed by the politicians.

 
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