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New Agricultural Policy Priorities Outlined to Lords’ Committee

13 September 2013
National Farmers Union

UK - The House of Lords EU Select Committee heard evidence from National Farmer's Union (NFU) President Peter Kendall as part of a short inquiry to identify priorities for implementing the CAP framework post-2014.

Mr Kendall said: “The evidence session in the House of Lords was our opportunity to present NFU members’ key concerns and to put forward practical ideas on how the future rules should be implemented given the number of areas that Defra will have discretion over.

“It is clearly in everyone’s interests to keep the future rules as simple as possible. We certainly do not want to see a re-run of the mess we had back when the 2005 CAP reform was implemented. The new mandatory environmental rules known as greening will add bureaucracy but we believe there are ways in which Defra can implement the new rules to minimise that and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.

“For example we believe that Defra should implement the exemption agreed by Brussels that would exempt all grassland farmers who farm less than 30ha of arable crops from having to do the crop diversification and ecological focus areas requirement. We also think the permanent grassland restrictions should be implemented at the English level rather than imposing restrictions that would have to be checked at the farm level by the RPA.

“Defra and the RPA have the power to decide what will count as “ecological focus areas” on arable farms. A number of member states argued to include features such as hedges, ditches and trees as well as areas of nitrogen fixing crops. We want to see the new rules implemented simply, but fairly. This means that English farmers must have access to the same types of ecological focus areas as farmers in other countries. It would be galling if a French farmer was able to count his peas or beans as ecological focus areas, but English farmers couldn’t and had to set productive land aside instead to meet the five per cent requirements.

“We also think it is madness to make some farmers grow three different crops when there is no market or environmental logic for them to do so. We think Defra should work with the Commission to come up with alternative choices for farmers that not only reduce the commercial impact of the new three-crop rule but will also deliver greater environmental outcomes.

“There is no doubt that English farmers have already experienced more radical CAP reform than our competitors, that’s been through the full decoupling of support, the move to the area based payments system and from facing the highest rates of transfers from pillar 1 to pillar 2. The critical point for me today was to deliver the message to peers that while farmers are not against reform of the CAP, what we do insist on is that reform should be done at an even pace and in a way that doesn’t put English farmers at a competitive disadvantage or make it harder for them to produce more British food, demanded by British consumers.”

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