FARMING Minister Jim Paice delivered an optimistic half-time assessment on negotiations towards a new CAP agreement this week.
He also delivered what appeared to be good news for the UK pigs business.
Mr Paice talked to the Yorkshire Post after the latest council of ministers responsible for agriculture. The presidency changes every six months and this week’s meeting was the last meeting presided over by Denmark, before Cyprus takes its first turn.
It was therefore seen as a significant way-mark in progress towards a final version of the CAP proposals.
Mr Paice said it would be at least another year before we saw that, and possibly longer.
But Denmark had done “a tremendous job” and he was sure a reasonable conclusion would be reached: “Nothing is resolved but I am pleased with the progress we are making.” It was agreed many of the original proposals were too complicated, particularly those related to “greening”.
But it was probably going to be impossible to stop some more green conditions being built into the qualifications for farm support – aimed at countries which have not done as much as the UK already has.
As far as possible, he wanted to keep the UK system of funding environmental stewardship from Pillar Two money (the general rural pot) rather than Pillar One (direct subsidy for food producers).
While the pattern of central funding remained uncertain, he had to give himself plenty of room to move money from Pillar One to Pillar Two as necessary – a process known as ‘modulation’.
NFU president Peter Kendall says the UK application for a high modulation allowance threatens to put UK farmers at a disadvantage by robbing them of common European entitlements to fund Westminster schemes.
Mr Paice commented: “Until we know what the allocations will be, we have to cover our options. I keep saying it is a fallback position and Peter Kendall keeps ignoring me. Does the NFU want us to stop funding stewardship? That could be the alternative.”
He added it had been announced at the meeting that 18 EU member States would be fully compliant with the ban on isolation of pregnant sows which is due into force next January, including the UK’s main rivals in pork production, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. And five countries would be more than 90 per cent compliant by the deadline – including Poland.
A similar ban has been in place in the UK since 1999 and our farmers are hoping to benefit from the levelling. But they are anxious about the danger of a market upheaval which could create openings for non-EU suppliers. Mr Paice said the level of compliance now promised should mean a smooth transition.