MEPS call on Commission to reverse CAP budget cuts

MEPS have formally demanded an increase in the funding allocated to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) under EU budget proposals.

The European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee defended the CAP budget in an opinion on the RU budget for 2014-2020.

The European Commission is proposing a 10 per cent cut, in real terms, to the direct payment budget over that period and is generally backed by the EU Council of Ministers in its drive to cut the budget.

However, in an opinion adopted this week, the Agriculture Committee calls for a restoration of the cuts to direct payments and rural development proposed by the Commission to ensure a real terms freeze in CAP spending. The opinion warns that any further cuts by member states to the overall EU budget should not affect agriculture spending.

SNP MEP Alyn Smith MEP, a member of the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, said: “The Commission’s proposal calls for a 10 per cent cut in real terms to direct payments over seven years to 2020, which will have a major impact on our upland livestock farmers and their dependence on the Single Farm Payment and other aids like LFA. We need to push back against this.

“Investment in farming through the CAP doesn’t just provide society with food security, but with a whole range of ancillary benefits, such as land management, export earnings, economic vitality in remote areas and employment in related industries: it is well worth the investment.”

He warned that MEPs will not have a direct say in the final budget outcome, which will be decided by heads of members state Governments, with negotiations due to take place in November. “However, we will be making our case as strongly as possible,” Mr Smyth said.

He added that the committee had failed to support an amendment which called for determining rural development support through objective criteria, not past performance. He said this would potentially condemn Scotland to continue having the lowest share of Pillar Two, rural development, funds in the EU.

MEPs mounted a stout defence of the CAP budget in a debate last week. German MEP Albert Dess, said cuts in the budget could lead to increased unemployment and higher prices of food.

“If farmers do not continue to get direct payments, they will not be able to survive,” he said, adding that history had shown that when Government payments to farms are reduced, ‘food prices go automatically up and consumers are called upon to pay and to suffer’.

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