Fair treatment call after new EU budget plan

A CALL has been made for the fair treatment of UK farmers following agreement to cut the EU budget for the first time in history.

The heads of government agreed to reduce the 2014- 2020 budget, which will also see the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget being reduced.

The deal has opened the way to an agreement on CAP reform, which the Irish Presidency hope to conclude in June.

Reacting to the decision Peter Kendall, NFU president, said the two absolutely critical points are that the UK is treated fairly both in budgetary terms and in terms of the “greening” conditions that are imposed on them.

He said the heads of government had introduced some improvements in the commission’s proposals as they affect agricultural spending.

“They have agreed that “greening” of the CAP will not require land to be taken out of production and that capping of the payments to larger farmers will be voluntary at member state level,” he said.

Mr Kendal said it was now important that the detailed points of agreement are not unpicked by the European Parliament.

He said: “A regrettable part of the budgetary deal is the confirmation that member states or regions can move up to 15 per cent of their Pillar 1 (single farm payment) budget to Pillar 2 (rural development) without any obligation for national treasuries to matchfund; and all member states can move 15 per cent and some up to 25 per cent in the other direction.

“For the NFU, there is no justification for Defra to move money from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2.

“The ‘greening’ of the first Pillar reduces the need for spending in Pillar 2. Furthermore, to reduce our farmers’ payments, which are already well below the EU average, and at a time when others may increase theirs, would be to compound an already unfair situation.”

In terms of greening, English farmers must be given a choice of measures and must not face higher conditions than others in Europe.

He said: “Some will qualify for the greening payment through membership of environmental stewardship schemes; others must have the choice of complying with common European measures.”

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