NFU looks to Cameron to treat farmers fairly during EU Budget negotiations
European leaders will meet in Brussels this week (February 7-8) to try and reach a unanimous agreement on the EUâ€™s long term budget for the period 2014- 2020.
The amount of money assigned to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and a number of policy concerns relating to the future CAP are among the issues to be discussed.
Speaking from a special meeting organised by the European farmersâ€™ organisation COPA-COGECA in Brussels today, NFU director of policy Martin Haworth, said: â€œWe have said all along that it would be unrealistic for us to expect the CAP to be exempt from the austerity measures that are being applied throughout the European Union. What is key to us is that whatever settlement is finally reached, the terms and conditions applied to our farmers must not put us at a disadvantage with our major competitors.
â€œSpecifically we expect our Government to treat English and Welsh farmers equitably and to ensure that they can operate on a level playing field with our main competitors in the rest of Europe. We are deeply concerned that the UK Government continues to negotiate to have the powers to move up to 20 per cent of the money at national level from the UKâ€™s direct payments envelope into its rural development envelope. This would hit our farmers far harder than any cuts that are applied fairly and equally across all European farmers.
â€œThe NFU remains vehemently opposed to granting powers to cut payments at national level. At the very least we believe that there must be an obligation to match fund any transferred monies from within national exchequers. This is the case for the other sources of money to finance the rural development measures and any funds transferred from Pillar 1 should be treated in the same way.â€
EU leaders are also set to discuss some policy concerns relating to the future CAP. Previous versions of the â€˜negotiating boxâ€™ outline plans to make capping voluntary for member states and to introduce flexibility around plans to â€˜greenâ€™ the direct payments.
Mr Haworth said: â€œThe NFU would prefer that capping was struck out entirely from the future CAP, but making it voluntary for member states would be an acceptable compromise. We interpret the negotiating text to mean that any suggestion of stepped reduction to larger payments, along with the overall ceiling at â‚¬300,000 as proposed, would become voluntary. We are absolutely opposed to payments being reduced in either of these ways and negotiators should ensure, at the very least, that both are left to the discretion of member states.
â€œMeanwhile, the centrepiece of this CAP reform remains the â€˜greeningâ€™ of direct payments. If the budget is reduced, itâ€™s only right that the conditions and costs imposed on farmers should also be reduced. We believe that if member states are given greater flexibility in implementing â€˜greeningâ€™ that this flexibility should also be passed on to farmers. Â Giving farmers the choice in how to implement greening to suit their own situation is key to ensuring that greening is implemented in the most cost effective way at farm level and avoids the threat of individual countries using the â€˜flexibilityâ€™ to gold plate the requirements.â€