NFU urges Europe to hold steady on CAP

Farming leaders have called on Europe to "hold its nerve" and continue to drive through reforms in the forthcoming CAP Health Check.

The NFU has argued that reform is still necessary to ensure a vibrant and competitive farming industry here and on the Continent.

NFU president Peter Kendall raised the issue of CAP reform at the 25th Edith Mary Gayton Memorial Lecture at Reading University last night. He argued that the CAP has moved forwards dramatically in recent times and said that the Health Check offers the opportunity for a refocus of the 2003 reforms.

"The CAP has come a long way and continues to show a lead, with Europe going further than any other trading block in its liberalisation offer at the latest round of WTO negotiations, for example," he said.

"We are also seeing plans to direct unspent money, that would have been used in managing markets internally, to be used instead for helping agriculture and development in the poorer countries around the world.

"That is not to say that the CAP we have in place is the final, definitive version and, in that regard, we were disappointed that the European Commission was not as ambitious as it might have been in advocating full decoupling of all support payments."

The NFU has three core principles regarding the CAP Health Check: market orientation commonality and simplification. Kendall will call for these to be the key drivers in the Health Check.

"We now find in the current climate of volatile markets some countries back-tracking on the removal of coupled support payments and seeking more flexibility on national envelopes. This damages the market within Europe and impacts very much on farmers within the UK," Kendall said.

He also called on the UK government to take a more constructive approach to the CAP. "Our government could play a far more effective role in shaping the future direction of the CAP if it did not sometimes give the impression that it would like to see it scrapped. The CAP is here to stay, and if we want to see it evolve in a sensible way, then the UK government needs to play its part."

Negotiations on the CAP Health Check take place next week. Kendall is due to meet Mariann Fischer Boel this Thursday and secretary of state Hilary Benn the following Monday. He will be in Brussels next week for the Agriculture Council, and will continue to press for a steady nerve on reform.

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