Ciolos reassures farmers over CAP

Greening measures under the reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP) will not affect farm competitiveness, EU Commissioner Dacian Ciolos has told farmers.

Speaking at the NFU annual conference in Birmingham this week (Tuesday), Ciolos said reform of the CAP meant it had to become a forward-looking policy and direct payments could no longer be based on historic references that “go back to 10 years ago”.

“This is why we are looking to move towards a flat rate payment per hectare in each region or member state. Farmers in England will benefit from the fact they have already moved to a flat rate payment. On the other hand, I know this is not the case for Wales.” He added the EU wanted to avoid any disruptive effects that could impact on the viability of farms during the shift.

He said he was aware of UK farmers’ concerns, particularly when it came to environmental measures, the so-called “greening” of the CAP. He stressed that CAP reform was aimed at strengthening competitiveness and sustainability of agriculture.

Admitting that greening would cost money, he nevertheless asked what the cost of doing nothing would be. “For the UK alone, the costs of soil erosion over 10 years are more than €0.5bn – not to mention the impact this has on the resources of fresh water.”

Greening measures, applied across all of Europe, would do more for ensuring the better management of natural resources, without effecting capacity, he added. He went on to praise UK farming for being ahead of the pack when it came to environmental responsibility.

Meanwhile, he said the budget for the CAP needed to be maintained for a strong common policy; any reduction in budget would lead to a reduction in ambition for the CAP reform. But he recognised that in these straitened times, any taxpayer funding had to be open and transparent and needed to be justified. "For years, the CAP has been criticised for giving disproportionate subsidies from public money to economic operations that may not really need it. The economic crisis is making this argument even more sensitive. It is publicly impossible to defend why the EU is giving large amounts of money for activities with no link whatsoever with farming.”

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