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Deal on EU agriculture reform is a missed opportunity

A broad agreement struck today between EU national governments and MEPs on reforming the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy contains a few positive steps forward; but overall the EU has missed an important opportunity to make farming more efficient and competitive.

A broad agreement struck today between EU national governments and MEPs on reforming the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy contains a few positive steps forward; but overall the EU has missed an important opportunity to make farming more efficient and competitive, James Nicholson MEP, European Conservatives and Reformist group agriculture spokesman, said today.

After all night talks on Monday and further talks this morning, Mr Nicholson said he was confident that many of the most regressive elements of the reform proposals have been removed, but overall the agreement is still a bad deal that will not make farming more competitive, efficient or sustainable.

Many aspects of the agreement – especially related to Direct Payments – are yet to be finalised owing to ongoing talks towards a long-term budget deal. However, proposals that require farmers to meet a number of ‘greening’ criteria (including taking some land out of production each year) have been significantly amended.

The agreement on the market organisation regresses the EU back towards quotas and intervention, with a new wine quota system, the potential to increase reference prices, and the continuation of sugar quotas until 2017.

Mr Nicholson, who represents Northern Ireland, said:

“The agreement is a mixed bag and an improvement on the position of the European Parliament and the original commission proposal. However, it will do very little to move farming forwards, and in some cases it will take it back to the days of food mountains in Europe.

“There are still thorny monetary issues to agree once we have a deal on the EU’s long-term budget.

“The Irish Presidency of the EU is to be congratulated for bringing MEPs and governments to an agreement on this very difficult reform. Despite being an improvement on the commission and parliament’s initial proposals, it is still a package that the ECR cannot currently support.

“We need farming to be more efficient and focused on sustainably feeding a growing population in the 21st century. This reform will not help us meet those challenges.”

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