UK is losing 'green' CAP battle
THE UK is losing the battle to avoid the ‘greening’ of Pillar One in the next round of the Common Agricultural Policy, according to NFU policy director Martin Haworth.
Mr Haworth said a delay in the publication of formal European Commission proposals on a post-2013 policy until later this year means it is unlikely the new regime will be in place by January 2014. The current policy will probably be rolled over for another year, he predicted.
But when it is finally in place, farmers are likely to be faced with compulsory green measures as a condition of claiming their Single Payments. This he said will require a re-think in how the NFU approaches the debate, he told NFU council on Tuesday.
Defra and the NFU are both arguing against the greening of Pillar One, but for different reasons.
The NFU is concerned that proposed measures like ecological set-aside, permanent pasture, green cover and crop rotation could ‘tie UK farmers in green tape’ and reduce the competitiveness of UK farmers. It wants ‘incentive-based’ green measures to be retained under the Pillar Two of the CAP.
Defra is also opposed to greening Pillar One but, according to Mr Haworth, because it wants to get rid of direct payments and believes making them publicly acceptable would prolong their existence.
Mr Haworth said, despite these efforts and a ‘helpful’ EU Parliament report by German MEP Albert Dess opposing the measure, the momentum behind it means the likelihood that greening measures will be introduced in Pillar One is ‘reasonably high’.
He said it would be ‘naïve’ to think those pushing for greening would accept a ‘green-wash’ where policies are portrayed as green but in reality amount to no more than farmers are already doing. “They will want their euro of flesh,” Mr Haworth said.
He told the council it could therefore be wise for the NFU, despite its outright opposition to the policy, to start working on how its impact could be minimised if the policy is introduced. He highlighted a proposal from EU umbrella farming body COPA-COGECA for a menu of 100 ‘green’ options for farmers to choose from as the sort of approach that could be pursued.
Mr Haworth said the UK position on the CAP budget was being driven by the Treasury and the Foreign Office, who wanted to cut the budget so as to claim more money back through the UK’s rebate.
UK Single Payments would be reduced anyway due to moves redistribute payments more fairly across the EU, he said.
But he said it was likely modulation, which currently sees UK farmers paying more into Pillar Two than most EU counterparts, would not be required under the next regime as the two pillars would be fixed in advance.