Leaked CAP plans raise serious concerns

DRAFT CAP reform proposals leaked from the European Commission have raised major concerns with the leaders of both Welsh farming unions.

The document, when finalised, will lay down the rules for future direct payments to farmers throughout Europe and could have far-reaching consequences if left unaltered, say the unions.

Speaking at the Pembrokeshire County Show, both Farmers Union of Wales president, Emyr Jones, and NFU Cymru president, Ed Bailey, said the document was a “very early and incomplete” draft regulation.

The main focus for Wales centred on the abolition of the current single payment entitlement system, where farmers’ payments per hectare vary depending upon their historical payments, and its replacement during a five-year transition period with payments per hectare which are identical throughout a region such as Wales.

But both unions claim that five years is nowhere near long enough to minimise disruption, and that much more flexibility is required in terms of varying payments between geographic regions.

They certainly do not agree with two alternatives being put forward for implementing the change – a total overnight switch or a 50-50 move over 2014 and 2015.

They are also critical of any suggestion that half of all individual payments made in the first year (2014) be based upon the Welsh average payment per hectare.

“We find it incomprehensible that such a figure is being stipulated, and cannot understand why the flexibility which was afforded to areas such as England under the original regulations is not being suggested in regions such as Wales which opted to keep the historical payment system,” says Mr Jones.

Proposals to scrap and replace current single payment entitlements ‘overnight’ constituted anything but a gradual transition towards flat rate payments.

“The approach would presumably mean a business losing all its historical entitlements overnight, and being awarded a new number of entitlements based upon the land claimed in the first year of the scheme.

“This seems like a very awkward way of administering the transition. We favour a more genuine ‘soft-landing’ approach over a period far longer than five years, during which farmers should be allowed to continue to use the entitlements they currently hold, while those entitlements would gradually fall in value as the element of direct payments based upon a flat rate increases.”

A 15 per cent per year change over is favoured by NFU Cymru.

Both unions say the priority is to highlight to the Welsh Government and Brussels the impact the regulations would have on Welsh farmers if left unchanged.

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