EU Parliament agrees CAP reform 'compromises'
THE European Parliament has taken a huge stride towards reaching its position on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The Parliament’s Agriculture Committee has finally agreed the content of around 100 ‘compromise amendments’ on most elements of the reforms, from ‘greening’ to rural development and market measures.
The Parliament’s stance, after MEPs tabled almost 7,500 individual amendments to the European Commission’s original CAP reform proposals, is widely seen as taking the reforms in a more manageable direction for farmers.
For example, MEPs want to offer greater flexibility on how member states implement the greening of direct payments, including by allowing agri-environment schemes to qualify farmers for the greening payment, an option being pursued by Defra for England.
The Agriculture Committee will now vote on its CAP reform package on January 23,with the entire Parliament set to sign the package off in a vote in March.
If, as seems increasingly likely, the overall EU budget and the CAP budget are finalised by then, the Parliament would then enter into negotiation with the Council of Ministers from the 27 member states to agree a final package.
The aim is to reach this agreement by June 30, 2013, the end of the Irish presidency of the EU>
Scottish MEP George Lyon MEP, a central figure in the Parliament negotiations, turned the tables on critics who have blamed MEPs for slow progress on reform by warning that EU Ministers now need to ‘get a grip’ if the June 30 timetable is to be met.
“The Parliament will now be in a position to begin negotiations with the Farming Ministers after we have voted on January 23rd. However, there are serious question marks on whether the Agriculture council will be in any position to negotiate given the snail’s pace progress made under the Cypriot Presidency.
“There is a real possibility they will be unable to bring any agreements to the table by the beginning of February.
“With the Irish taking over the Presidency on the 1st of January 2013 they need to get a grip of the negotiations on day one. They need to drive forward the talks between Farm Ministers if there is to be any prospect of reaching agreement on the reform package by the middle of 2013.”
He said there was ‘real concern’ over the prospects of the Lithuanian Government’s presidency, which follows Ireland, reaching a deal.
NFU president Peter Kendall praised the ‘remarkable job’ MEPs have done to ‘make sense of the record-breaking number of amendments tabled earlier this year’.
He highlighted ‘significant progress’ in key policy areas including:
- Making the greening requirements more practical and workable
- Addressing concerns with the bureaucratic active farmer test.
- Ensuring greater flexibility around payment entitlements.
- Securing a workable national reserve accessible to new entrants as well as young entrants.
- Maintaining the vital elements of the sugar regime that give growers counter-weighting balances in the market.
- The introduction of a much needed proportionate penalty system.
But other areas remain ‘very concerning’, he added, including giving member states greater scope to make coupled support payments, moves by some member states to retain ‘indefinitely’ historic payment models and attempts to introduce market supply measures in the dairy sector.
He warned that Defra could seek to take advantage of the mechanism to reduce direct payments in England to by up to 15 per cent to fund rural development schemes. It is also seeking implement greening in England trough ‘a more demanding and costly form of ‘ELS light’, increasing the regulatory burden imposed on farmers.
Mr Kendall said: “The number one priority for the NFU remains fairness of treatment. The ideological policy stance of UK Government with regards to the CAP policy should not be allowed to put our farmers at a competitive disadvantage compared to other European farmers.”