Battle looms over agri-environment schemes

A MAJOR battle is looming between the European Parliament and EU Ministers over whether national Governments will be required to contribute to funds cut from direct farm payments to pay for rural development schemes.

One of the most controversial elements of the latest proposals for CAP reform is the ability of member states to move 15 per cent of money both ways between Pillar One (direct payment) and Pillar Two (rural development).

The measure is included to give member states the flexibility to apportion spending to their priorities in the event of a significantly reduced CAP budget, which is now inevitable, after last week’s budget talks.

This flexibility means some member states, such as France and Ireland, will move funds out of Pillar Two to bolster direct payments to their farmers.

Rural development

But the rural development budget looks like taking the biggest hit. Other member states, led by the UK and including Austria and Finland, are likely to shift funds from direct payments - in the UK’s case to fund its agri-environment programme.

Scottish MEP George Lyon said: “This will create huge distortions. Parliament will insist on co-financing and capping the figure at 15 per cent.

“There will be a big battle on that. It can’t be just a free lunch for member states to shift money into Pillar Two.”

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