‘Bad for farmers and wildlife’ – CAP reform reaction

EU policymakers have welcomed the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) agreement reached in Brussels but farming and environmental  organisations are largely unimpressed.

Here is a selection of the reaction.

Owen Paterson, Defra Secretary

“My general overview is that I am not absolutely dancing with excitement about the new CAP. In some areas it does move in the right direction. We did very well on sugar. That fact that we are going to get rid of quotas is very much thanks to what we have done with our allies.

“But most of the time I spent stopping really appalling ideas bringing back policies which would have reversed the positive gains of (former Agriculture Commissioners) MacSharry and Fischler. Even yesterday there were some proposal to start using public money to support pig and chicken production.

“In very simplistic terms, eventually down the road the road I would like to see decisions on food production made in response to signals sent by the market, but there is a clear role for taxpayer’s money to be used to compensate farmers and landowners for the environmental work they do, which is a public good.

“There is still a very significant sum of money going into Pillar One in the UK -  just over 3.5bn euros in 2014 right through to 2020 and there is also lot of money going into Pillar Two.”

Simon Coveney, Irish Agriculture Minister who led the talks on behalf of EU Ministers

“What we have here is a very balanced package. The various elements, from the greening of direct payments, through our treatment of active, small and young farmers to the modernisation of the way in which we implement rural development programmes and monitor the financing and implementation of the CAP, demonstrate how a constructive approach by the European institutions can provide a very positive and modern framework for the ongoing development of the agriculture sector.

“I am confident that farmers throughout the European Union will benefit from these developments, and that European citizens can be assured that resources are being spent in an efficient, equitable and sustainable manner.”

Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş

“I am delighted with this agreement which gives the common agricultural policy a new direction, taking better account of society’s expectations as expressed during the public debate in spring 2010. This agreement will lead to far-reaching changes: making direct payments fairer and greener, strengthening the position of farmers within the food production chain and making the CAP more efficient and more transparent. “

NFU president Peter Kendall

“This round of CAP reform has been disappointing from the outset. The future CAP will be less common, less market orientated, more complicated and will deliver nothing in terms of achieving a more level playing field.  But for the NFU, the greatest disappointment is that the biggest threats to English farmers lies ahead and that’s how our own Government will seek to implemented the new regime back here at home.

“For almost every element of the new CAP, there will be flexibilities for Defra to select from. I just don’t understand why our Government is so intent on making it harder for British farmers to produce more British food – something consumers have clearly demanded in the wake of the recent horsegate scandal, and even at a time when Governments in the rest of Europe are doing the reverse. Defra Minsters fought hard for and have won powers to damage farming and domestic food production.”

“Defra can choose to cut English farmers payments by up to 15 per cent on top of all of the other budget cuts we know are coming. They also have powers to opt out of the standard European rules on “greening” and implement a certification scheme which demands higher environmental standards of our farmers.

“UK Government is alone in Europe by thinking that doggedly following the free market ideology of cutting payments and ratcheting up environmental standards will help our farmers compete and produce more food.”

Julie Girling, Conservative Agriculture spokesman in EU Parliament

“Our negotiations have managed to remove many of the very worst elements of the proposals as originally tabled and voted by Parliament. But that cannot disguise the fact that what is left is still not good - a backwards step in many ways to interventionism and statism. It does nothing for food security, consumers or the environment, and even less for farmers.

“British farmers have little to celebrate here and to an extent their efficiency will be punished instead of rewarded.”

Gavin Partington, Director General of the British Soft Drinks Association

“We welcome the decision today to abolish quotas in the sugar industry.  This is a great step forward for the competitiveness of British manufacturing industry and the tens of thousands of jobs that it supports. We have always said that competition between companies is the way to get the best deal for consumers.  This is the basis on which our industry should be run.

“The next challenge is to ensure that sufficient supplies of sugar are available for industry as long as quotas still exist, and to address the prohibitive import tariffs that restrict access to world markets.”

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director

“The deal struck today is likely to be disastrous for wildlife and the environment, and it is a poor use of precious public funding. The final deal has favoured vested interests and let down many of Europe’s most progressive farmers who have been working hard to make space for nature and the environment while producing food.

“We are now appealing to Owen Paterson, and his counterparts in the other UK countries, to use their full powers to reward those who are willing to really deliver the most for wildlife and the environment.  The Secretary of State was one of the few voices in Brussels calling for a reform which drives up environmental standards across farming and directs the money to the very best. It will now be down to him and his colleagues in the devolved countries to follow through on this.”

Emma Hockridge, Head of Policy at the Soil Association

“The final outcome of the CAP reform process is good news for organic farmers and we welcome the extra support and recognition given to the sector. The UK Government must now follow the lead of other EU countries in supporting organic farming, for example by developing innovative schemes as part of the Rural Development Programme. Countries that already do this have seen the area of organic farming increasing, providing many wider public benefits, and their organic markets have thrived, even during the global recession”.

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts 

“Unfortunately Member States and MEPs have failed to grasp an historic opportunity to green agriculture across the European Union.  This deal is bad news for Europe’s natural heritage – it means no ‘greening’ whatsoever across a significant percentage of Europe’s agricultural landscape.  This poor outcome makes a mockery of the principle of the greening of European agriculture for wildlife and sustainable farming.”


Readers' comments (2)

  • As a new entrant (english) to farming I bought some land and set myself up in business. There were no entitlements with the land and was told by agent- "buy them now or sit on your hands and when the reform happens apply to the reserve pot and you will get them free as a new entrant under 40yrs old.

    Is this still true ? will that happen now or not ?

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  • Could it be that the real reason the RSPB are kicking up such a fuss is that as receivers of some of the highest subsidies in the UK they stand to lose the most?

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