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CAP vote indicates failure to address key challenges

24 January 2013

CAP vote indicates failure to address key challenges

Proposed changes to the Common Agricultural Policy passed by MEPs threaten to undo previous reforms that uncoupled payments from production and moved farmers closer to the marketplace, whilst doing nothing to address the challenges of food security, James Nicholson MEP, European Conservatives and Reformists group agriculture spokesman, said today.

Proposed changes to the Common Agricultural Policy passed by MEPs threaten to undo previous reforms that uncoupled payments from production and moved farmers closer to the marketplace, whilst doing nothing to address the challenges of food security, James Nicholson MEP, European Conservatives and Reformists group agriculture spokesman, said today.

The parliament’s agriculture committee has held a two day voting session to determine its position on the significant reforms which, for the first time under the Lisbon Treaty, MEPs will have co-decision powers over.

Whilst the adopted changes made the ‘greening’ obligations (such as setting aside land and compulsory crop diversification) on farmers much more flexible than the original commission proposal, other positions adopted by the parliament will significantly undermine the development of a competitive, efficient and market-facing European agricultural industry.

The proposed extension of the use of intervention in the marketplace could lead to the return of food mountains that caused the CAP to be parodied in the past. The continuation of quotas for production in the sugar and wine sectors along with the introduction of an additional quota for milk undermine previous reforms and cause uncertainty for farmers planning for the end of the quota regimes. These reforms would also allow Producer Organisations sweeping powers to control production and to impose rules and payments on farmers who aren’t even their members, significantly undermining efficient and independent farmers. The Committee also wants to exempt agriculture from EU competition rules.

Up to 15 percent of the payments can now be put towards ‘coupled’ payments. Use of this tool has the potential to reward farmers for goods that the market may not need, whilst undermining the level playing field for farmers in different member states.

The committee also delivered a poor deal for new EU Member States by failing to support equal payments across the Single Market whilst supporting the commission proposal to cap payments to large farmers which will significantly affect both the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic.

The proposals will move to a vote of the full parliament.

Speaking after the vote, James Nicholson said:

“Whilst the changes made to the greening proposals are positive and go some way to addressing the unworkable proposals from the European Commission, they still are a long way away from the greening that the ECR group would like to see. The CAP should be environmentally-friendly, but this greening should build on existing measures available in rural development programmes and not targeted at competitive and efficient farms which are helping to meet growing demand.”

“If the Agriculture committee’s position is upheld then European agriculture will regress a decade to the times of taxpayers’ money being used to buy up agricultural products that consumers do not need. In these days of concerning food security we need for our farmers to be able to farm the marketplace, not the subsidy. We certainly do not want farmers to be dictated to by Producer Organisations that they have not signed up to.

“These reforms do nothing to assist European farmers who need to become more efficient, not less.

“This vote is likely to harm farmers in a competitive global environment, to waste taxpayer money, to push up food prices, and to diminish the environmental stewardship role that farming plays.

“While some parts of the vote were disappointing, the ECR group helped to make positive improvements in some areas. However, this is not the end of the road and as the legislative process evolves, we intend to continue to work towards our objectives of securing a Common Agricultural policy which delivers for both farmers and consumers.”

Speaking regarding the lack of equal payments provisions, ECR Polish Vice-President of the Agriculture committee, Janusz Wojciechowski, said:

“Unfortunately, the equalisation of direct payment for farmers of new member states was rejected because of insufficient support from the largest political groups in the parliament. I appealed to my Polish colleagues from the EPP and the Socialists to influence and persuade their groups to support the amendment aimed at the full equalisation of direct payments to farmers, but unfortunately without success. Polish MEPs from the EPP and Socialists group failed to persuade their colleagues to vote in favour in this regard.

“We will not cease in our efforts. The ECR Group will resume its efforts to equalise the direct payments to farmers at the plenary.”

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