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NFU Challenges EC Over Leaked CAP Proposals

25 August 2011
National Farmers Union

UK - National Farmers Union (NFU) President Peter Kendall has written to European Commissioner Dacian Ciolos to express his profound concerns over leaked draft proposals on the future of the CAP.

The proposals, dated from much earlier this summer, appear to contain many obvious errors. Mr Kendall believes that if they remain unchanged they could limit production and hamper British famers’ efforts to reduce reliance on subsidies in the future.

“It seems that Commissioner Ciolos remains intent on justifying part of the direct payments on the basis of compulsory actions to benefit the environment. This is despite the NFU arguing that the best way to achieve environmental benefits is through targeted, multi-annual schemes such as ELS and willing partnerships like the CFE."

"Mr Ciolos’ proposals may prove counter-productive for the environment if they discourage farmers from entering these schemes because of fears that additional land will have to be found and set aside for environmental purposes,” said Mr Kendall.

“With inflation running high, the Commission need to be sensitive to how its proposals will affect food prices. If farmers are forced to set-aside at least five per cent of productive land and devote another five per cent of their arable land to growing a third crop, then we will run into supply issues very quickly."

"I see some perverse and unintended consequences if these proposals stand. Will our livestock and dairy producers who grow small areas of cereals in rotation with grass have to start to cultivate a range of arable crops? It would seem so looking at these leaked proposals.

“The proposal to fossilise permanent pasture as land which has been grass for five years also worries me. The definition of permanent pasture must be flexible enough to allow farmers to improve their grass leys. We need a distinction here between grass in long rotations and uncultivated or semi-natural grassland with high biodiversity value.”

The leaks also include changes to cross compliance. Some aspects of the statutory management rules that farmers have to follow would be removed but additional aspects are included in the “good agricultural and environmental conditions” such as a ban on ploughing carbon rich soils.

Mr Kendall added: “It is unbelievable that the Commission could even be thinking of banning ploughing in certain soil types. If such a ban were implemented, severe restrictions could be placed on some of England’s finest and most productive soils. The result of which would simply see production exported to other parts of the world, with worse environmental consequences, and British farmers battling with weeds and pests."

“The NFU has been a strong supporter of Commission efforts to reform the CAP in the past. We supported decoupling because we believe that the market and not the support system should determine farmers’ business decisions but these proposals look like a step back to me and a sure way of forcing farmers to remain dependant on the support from Brussels, with less regard to the market. I sincerely hope that the Commission’s thinking has moved on from these leaked drafts.”

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