The NFU has responded furiously to signs it may have lost the battle on the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The organisation claims Defra Secretary Owen Paterson has told the Cabinet he has opted for the maximum 15% modulation rate in England, a move that, if confirmed, will enrage large sections of the farming community, which have campaigned rigorously for a lower rate to be transferred between the CAP Pillars, at least to begin with.
Defra ministers have yet to formally announce their intentions for the rate of transfer but, according to the NFU, they have already informed cabinet colleagues so the decision can be communicated to the European Commission by the end of December.
The NFU has also said it believes ministers have recommended the maximum amount to be deducted from farm payments from 2014, despite having the option of starting at a lower rate and reviewing after a few years.
The NFU, Country Land and Business Association and Tenant Farmers Association have been urging Defra to go for a 9% rate initially.
This could then be increased to 15%, if necessary, in 2017.
MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee backed the industry position in a report last week, saying that with the New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS) not due to come on tap until 2016, there is littlepoint opting for the top rate to begin with.
Mr Paterson has always said he wanted to transfer the maximum 15% from 2014, but has indicated he would only do so if he was convinced this would deliver “worthwhile and valuable outcomes” in Pillar Two – a suggestion the NFU has questioned.
NFU president Peter Kendall said: “The NFU has used the Government’s own figures contained in the recent consultation to build the case for retaining the rate at 9%.
“At the same time Defra has totally failed to set out its vision for making effective use of rural development money in the future.
“There has been no attempt to explain to farmers how increasing the transfer rate beyond 9% will deliver “worthwhile and valuable outcomes” for their businesses.
“Farmers remain at a complete loss to understand what Government intends to use this money on, or how it can be used effectively for the benefit of their businesses.
“Farmers understand the need for environmental protection and management.
“Much of the good work undertaken by farmers through their Entry Level Scheme (ELS) agreements will form the basis for the new environmental conditions known as ‘greening’.
“We know that Government is designing the replacement to the ELS along the lines of a more targeted and competitive scheme which aspires to have half the area of land in England currently in a scheme supported in the future.
“The threat of disproportionate reductions in farmers’ payments vis a vis their immediate competitors is making them angry and frustrated.
“The Scottish government recently announced that it intends to modulate at 9.5%, while the German government has gone for 4.5% – well below the maximum of 15% that Defra appears wedded to.”
The Government’s approach had been “profoundly disappointing and infuriating”, he added.