Agricultural Policy needs to change says Spelman

Farmers should be better rewarded for their environmental efforts, with less reliance on subsidies, according to Defra Secretary Caroline Spelman.

In her first speech in government to the Oxford Farming Conference, Spelman told delegates CAP had to be fundamentally different and that it had to be ambitious, particularly in its approach to direct subsidies and in emphasising payments for farmers who deliver public goods.

“Now is the time to make very significant progress towards reducing our reliance on direct payments. Rising global demand for food and rising food prices make it possible to reduce subsidies and plan for their abolition.

“Furthermore we should encourage innovation in the industry, and provide help with environmental measures and combating climate change. Our taxpayers have every right to expect other public goods for the subsidies they pay. Pillar 2 of the CAP does exactly that – which is why we want to see it taking a greater share of finite resources.”

The former National Farmers’ Union commodity secretary said in her speech that the UK needed to address “the tendency to protectionism in other Member States, which undercuts producers in developing countries, because this is morally wrong”. She added that favouring protectionism over liberalisation will “actually hold back European farmers in the long run”.

Spelman also said that there needed to be increased competitiveness in the whole UK food chain, to help secure an “environmentally sustainable and healthy supply of food”.

“The whole industry must strive to be as good as its best operators and, in turn, the best need to keep raising the bar. This is crucial – as a nation we’ve never been so interested in where food comes from, how it’s produced and animal welfare. As a result, corporate values can easily be damaged by food scare stories.”

She added: “Elsewhere we’re looking at how responsibility for dealing with animal disease can be shared with animal keepers, which will demand trust on both sides. We know sharing responsibility makes for better decisions, bluetongue being a case in point.”

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