NFU’s European lobbying ‘ paying off’, says president

Darlington and Stockton Times: PROGRESS: NFU president Peter Kendall PROGRESS: NFU president Peter Kendall

THE European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee’s key decision makers on the CAP reform have now informally agreed the content of around 100 compromise amendments.

MEPs tabled almost 7,500 individual amendments to the European Commission’s original CAP reform proposals.

The NFU has been in constant dialogue with Parliament’s decision makers in order to influence the shape of those compromises.

Peter Kendall, NFU president, led a high-level delegation to Strasbourg in November to meet more than 20 of the key players with the NFU’s Brussels office co-ordinating all of the European lobbying activities.

Mr Kendall said: “The MEPs involved in the CAP talks have done a remarkable job making sense of the record-breaking number of amendments tabled earlier this year.

“MEPs set themselves an ambitious internal deadline of the end of the year and I am pleased that they have managed to knock the bulk of the amendments into a more meaningful, workable and acceptable shape.”

A huge part of the NFU’s European lobbying was trying to prevent unnecessary bureaucracy and costs associated with the proposals and, Mr Kendall said, that effort was paying off.

Significant progress was being made in policy areas such as making the greening requirements more practical and workable, addressing concerns with the bureaucratic active farmer test, ensuring greater flexibility around payment entitlements, securing a workable national reserve which is accessible to new entrants as well as young entrants, maintaining the vital elements of the sugar regime that give growers counterweighting balances in the market and the introduction of a much needed proportionate penalty system.

However, Mr Kendall, said some parts of the package still caused great concern: “For example, giving member states greater scope to make coupled support payments, attempts to introduce market supply measures in the dairy sector and the efforts by some member states to hold on indefinitely to the higher payment levels associated with the historic payment model.

“The framework is slowly taking shape at EU level, but history proves that the real impact of CAP reform comes from the decisions that our own Government will take when it implements the policy.

Defra has been lobbying hard for the power to reduce direct payment made to farmers by up to 20 per cent. It’s an incredibly hollow victory, but I am relieved that MEPs would limit the amount Defra could transfer in theory to a maximum of 15 per cent and would require that money to be match-funded by the Treasury.

“I am also concerned that Defra will attempt to opt-out of the European system of greening and implement a more demanding and costly form of ‘ELS light’ for English farmers, increasing the regulatory burden imposed on them.”

While the majority of those involved in the process have now agreed informally to the compromises, the next step is for those and some additional stand-alone amendments, to be put to a vote of the full Agriculture Committee.

This takes place on January 23-24. The committee’s draft report will then be sent to the plenary of the European Parliament in order to agree it’s negotiating position ahead of crunch talks in 2013 on the future CAP

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