Farming organisations unite to fight for fairer CAP

THE NFU, The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) have joined forces to fight for a fair deal for English farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms.

The organisations have become increasingly concerned that Defra will implement the reform package, set to be agreed at EU level over the next few months in a way that disadvantages English farmers.

The coalition was unveiled at the NFU conference on Wednesday morning. NFU president Peter Kendall said the industry was keen to avoid the mistakes of the last set of reforms when a divided industry – with the CLA and NFU on opposite sides – contributed the botched implementation of the reforms in England.

“Our objective is to achieve a fair outcome for English farmers from this CAP reform,” he said.

CLA president Harry Cotterell said the entire English farming industry was ‘united’ in the fight for a fairer CAP and highlighted the need to prevent Defra ‘gold-plating’ CAP regulations and imposing tougher burdens on English farmers than their competitors.

TFA chairman Jeremy Walker highlighted the need to retain a strong CAP payment to help the many farmers who need it to run their businesses.

The organisations have two main concerns about the implementation of the reforms in England.

They suspect farmers will end with significantly lower direct payments than their main competitors on the back of the recent EU budget negotiations.

The recent EU budget deal already places UK farmers’ payments considerably lower than their main competitors and leaves the UK facing an estimated 22 per cent cut to the UK rural development envelope, the largest loss of all member states.

In addition, the package as it stands enables member states to transfer up to 15 per cent of funds from the direct payment pot to fund rural schemes. The coalition fears Defra will deploy this in England to fill the large hole in its rural development budget but that few other regions or member states will.

To make matters worse, Defra could potentially deploy unused allocations in other UK regions to push ‘voluntary modulation’ levels in England above 15 per cent.   

The coalition estimates that the upshot of all this is that English direct under the next CAP could be nearly 50 per cent lower than those in the Netherlands and Belgium and up to 26 per cent lower than payments in Denmark, Germany, France and Ireland.

They also fear English farmers will face tougher environmental rules than most as Defra looks to make membership of a refined version of Entry Level Stewardship the sole means of accessing the new 30 per cent ‘greening’ payment.

In light of these concerns the coalition is making a number of demands, including calling for English farmers to be given a choice of greening options that will be available to other member states. These potentially defining farmers with more than 75 per cent permanent grassland and small areas of arable land as ‘green by definition’ and therefore exempt from greening.

The coalition argues that if the UK was allowed this option, 56 per cent of English farmers would automatically qualify for greening.

The coalition is calling on Defra to implement a number of measures in light of this, including, providing English farmers with a range of greening options, ensuring greening does not impose higher standards and ensuring it does not take land out of production.

NFU conference 2013

  • The two-day NFU conference will take place at the ICC, in Birmingham, on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Follow it on our Farmers Guardian | NFU Conference page, where we will be posting live updates and stories and videos from the event.
  • Follow our journalists at the conference on Twitter using the #nfu13 hastag.

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