UK farmers already receive a level of farm payments considerably lower than our main competitors. Instead of finding ways to secure a more level playing field across the EU, Defra has successfully negotiated the powers to potentially widen the gap in payment levels further by switching CAP money from direct payments to rural development.
The second threat relates to plans to ‘green’ the direct payments.
Negotiations are continuing at a European level but the industry fears that Defra’s preferred method of implementing greening would close off options that are available to farmers elsewhere in the UK and across the EU.
The coalition does not agree on every CAP issue, but it is united on these two central issues and has announced principles which they are encouraging Defra to adopt in designing future CAP policy for England. These include:
English farmers, like farmers in the rest of Europe, must have a choice of greening options, including access to every applicable category deemed “green by definition” which grants farmers automatic entitlement to aid envisaged within the reforms.
Greening should not impose higher standards, or compliance costs, on English farmers than those in other UK regions or EU member states.
Given food security and economic concerns, greening must not require the land in question to be taken out of production and must avoid unjustifiable loss in farm income; a point that has already been endorsed by the EU heads of government.