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Minister’s vow to help ‘wean’ farmers off CAP
3:54pm Friday 22nd March 2013 in Farming
ENVIRONMENT Secretary Owen Paterson has vowed to fight for tougher moves to wean farmers off subsidies as part of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms.
On Wednesday, after late night talks in Brussels, he said he had successfully resisted moves by some ministers to extend such support.
“I’m pressing for further progress towards an open market that makes farmers less dependent on subsidies,”
Last week, after a first vote on CAP reform by Euro MPs, lobby groups warned of a return to the days of food mountains and wine lakes if the direct link between farm subsidies and production was not broken.
After two days of talks between agriculture ministers, the stage is set for marathon negotiations under the Irish EU presidency in the hope of a final deal in June.
The UK and a group of other countries had argued for more action to make the sector selfsupporting and competitive, but the majority agreed the share of subsidies linked to production should actually be increased.
Mr Owen said the UK would fight the move which would allow between seven per cent and 12 per cent of subsidies from the farm budget to be coupled to production.
However, although disappointing, he said it was an improvement on the European Parliament’s proposed link of 15 per cent or even 18 per cent.
Mr Paterson welcomed an agreement that national authorities should have more control to shape proposed greening measures to regional needs.
Discussions would now begin with farmers on how greening should be designed, alongside the next Rural Development Programme.
Mr Paterson said a “onesize- fits-all” approach to CAP did not work. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales must be allowed to deliver outcomes tailored to their own circumstances.
The proposed reforms include capping the level of direct payments any one farm can receive to 300,000 euros (£256,000).
The provisional deal, approved by MEPs and ministers, also makes 30 per cent of direct payments conditional on complying with compulsory green measures on crop diversification, maintaining permanent pasture and grassland, and creating ecologically focused areas.
Mr Paterson will continue opposing an arrangement which effectively allows farmers to be paid twice under two parts of the CAP budget for delivering the same environmental benefit – something voted down by MEPs but reinstated by a majority of ministers.
Peter Kendall, NFU president, was pleased that Mr Paterson’s understanding of EU greening proposals was the same as his – that farmers will be able to access greening aid by undertaking, as part of a national scheme, the EU’s three greening options.
The position agreed by farm ministers will now form the basis for negotiation with the European Parliament, which adopted its position on CAP last week.
Negotiations between the two will start on April 11 and the Irish presidency hopes to have reached a final compromise by the end of its presidency in June.