CAP reform delay a ‘threat to EU’s health’

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A LEADING European farming leader warned yesterday that, far from a “health check”, the common agriculture policy (CAP) could need major surgery.

Farming leaders warned that if no reform of the CAP was in place by the end of June then a final deal could be delayed for years.

The fear expressed by the farming organisations Copa and Cogeca was that, if there was no deal under the Irish presidency which ends next month, there would be increased instability for EU farmers and agri-co-operatives.

The move came after EU farm ministers met in Ireland at the weekend to try to seek more flexibility on the various policy sticking points between member states, the European Parliament and the Agricultural Commissioner.

Scottish MEP George Lyon was at the meeting and described the discussions as “frank and to the point”.

“I was pleased that there was support for greater flexibility on issues like greening and equivalence for farmers in agri-environment schemes,” he said.

“However, the deadline for a deal on a reformed CAP remains tight and there is still a long way to go before we reach a settlement. We should be under no illusions on the scale of the task which remains.”

For Copa president Gerd Sonnleitner – who made the claim of a need for major surgery – an agreed CAP was not just important for farmers but for the whole of the European economy.

“The farm sector has played a very positive stabilising role over the last few years of crisis. We must ensure it continues to do so,” he said.

He said there had to be much more flexibility incorporated into the “greening” measures and he fully supported EU farm ministers who claim equivalent schemes already in existence should be authorised.

“With scarce resources, the rate for reducing the amount of land available for production should not go above 3 per cent and farmers should be able to cultivate environmentally friendly crops on this area” he added.

ANDREW ARBUCKLE