The National Farmers’ Union in England (NFU) this week criticised government ministers for “…their lack of engagement with farmers over plans for implementing the CAP.” The union accused secretary of state Owen Patterson and farming minister David Heath of refusing “…to listen to the concerns raised by farmers at shows around the country.” NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond declared: “Our members feel that they have been let down over these negotiations through Defra ministers’ refusal to listen to them.” He predicted that: “Defra minsters’ plans are likely to include the maximum 15% voluntary modulation. This on top of 10% EU-wide modulation, future financial discipline cuts, which in 2013 will be 5% and up to 2% removed from direct payments for a mandatory young farmers scheme, could see English direct payments cut by around 20% under the reformed CAP.” NFU members may not all be strong supporters of the European Union, but they can find common cause and voice their disagreement if CAP funding is under threat.
With the final stages of the CAP reform process getting under way, UK environment secretary Owen Paterson today demonstrated his grasp of the underlying issues under discussion. It would seem that Paterson believes that Ray MacSharry’s or Franz Fischler’s reforms could somehow be undone. “Some Member States have been pressing to take CAP back to the dark days of butter mountains and wine lakes, with costly interventions in the market,” the British minister insisted. “I have resisted this every step of the way. That’s why Germany and the UK were unable to support one of the regulations which manages the EU food and agriculture market,” he asserted. The minister is not for turning, either. Like a former UK prime minister recently interred in the crypt at Westminster, Paterson is happy to make farming sound like an extension of shopping. “All along I have rejected moves that would increase costs for hard pressed consumers. British shoppers should not have to pay twice for the CAP – once through their taxes and again at the supermarket tills.” […]
Scottish MEP Alyn Smith says he is “hopeful of a political deal today,” at the start of the final trialogue. He is buoyed up by the wins on rural development and sees progress on new entrants but remains “less keen” on the direction direct payments are taking. This morning, ahead of the agriculture committee (AGRI) meeting this afternoon, he is positive: “I think we’ve won more than we’ve lost,” although the negative UK bargaining position has not helped. Instead, it ensures that the UK will come away with a poor deal for its agricultural sector, leaving farmers from Scotland out in the cold. Some elements of the CAP remain unresolved, Smith warns, pending decisions on the Multiannual Financial Framework. He for one, is “dubious” about this arrangement, but as a political realist, he sees it as “the only way to make progress.”