Spelman warns about ‘perverse consequences’ of CAP greening

Defra secretary of state Caroline Spelman has expressed concern over “unintended, but perverse consequences” that the greening of Pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural Policy could have on the farming industry.

Speaking at NFU Scotland’s conference on the topic last week, she said Defra would prefer to see the greening take place in Pillar 2, but that if it had to be around Pillar 1, measures should be based on six principles. They should allow flexibility for member states to meet their different environmental circumstances, but enough equivalence for the system to be auditable.

She added that the environmental benefits delivered by greening should be additional to those already delivered by cross-compliance, and the level of administrative burden and complexity must be proportionate to the benefits.

Farmers who have already committed to environmental measures under Pillar 2 should be recognised, not penalised, and the reform should ensure a proper balance between environmental benefits and sustainable production, she said.

Spelman mentioned the mandatory protection of permanent grassland included in the proposals, saying that as the European Commission is planning to use 2014 as a reference year to determine the legislative frame around grassland protection, some farmers are tempted to “plough up grassland” before the deadline.

She referred to a recent report by the European Court of Auditors that questioned the benefits of the current greening measures, and their ability to be implemented without increasing red tape for farmers.

Spelman said that everyone agreed on the fact that farming should be made more sustainable, but that there were still discussions as to how the industry could make that transition.

“If farming isn’t sustainable – if it fails to support biodiversity, protect our natural resources and both mitigate and adapt to climate change – then it will fail to feed the growing global population, with an extra billion mouths to feed in just 13 years’ time.

“We want to work with the Commission and other Member States to ensure that the CAP is greened effectively, and with minimal administrative burdens, to secure practical, effective and simple provisions for farmers,” she said.

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